Most recent comments
Jogging og blogging
Are, 9 måneder, 2 uker
Liveblogg nyttårsaften 2016
Are, 9 måneder, 2 uker
Reading in dark times
Are, 11 måneder, 1 uke
Moldejazz 2016
Camilla, 1 år, 2 måneder
Dørskilt
Karoline, 1 år, 3 måneder
Halifax
Tor, 1 år, 4 måneder
Sony Smartwatch 3 review
Tor, 1 år, 4 måneder
Numerikk, takk
Tor, 1 år, 4 måneder
Topp tur
Camilla, 1 år, 6 måneder
Tolkien reading day
Tor, 1 år, 7 måneder
50 book challenge
Camilla, 9 måneder, 3 uker
Five years ago
Tokyo
Tor
Controls
Register

Never Let Me Go


There is something about Kazuo Ishiguro. I do not know any other authors whose prose flows so easily while being so complex. It is very seductive. I knew this from other books he had written, and yet Never Let Me Go was a book I was hesitant about starting. The descriptions I had heard, the ``story of Kathy H., who works as a carer, and whose back story and memories of the school Hailsham form the main body of the narrative...'' never really caught my attention. I ought to have known Ishiguro would not write something mundane, banal or boring, but that is what it sounded like. And I have a high tolerance for books about ordinary people and their memories. That is my point.

I suspect these less than promising descriptions were due to a terror of spoiling the plot. I think that is a mistake. The story does not depend on one's ability to keep the true status of the residents of Hailsham a secret. I firmly believe most people will figure out what is going on very quickly. What matters, as I see it, is not that Ishiguro uses a common science fiction trope, but what he does with it. He grounds it in a way of narrating which does not accept it as science fiction, and he goes on to set up a very unpleasant scenario which asks the reader to think about how we define being human. Hiding this behind vague suggestions which portray Kathy H. as simply some sort of nurse with a private school upbringing is doing the book a disservice. Especially if it keeps people from reading it.

The point is not what they are, but that the trials and tribulations that are portrayed as their particular problem, as a result of their cruel fate, are in fact only compressed versions of general human concerns (or, possibly, quite the contrary: an indication that there is no such thing as the ``general human'', and that ``our'' problems are deeply personal and unique). What makes Kathy H. (and her schoolfellows) human is not their ability to create, their art, but their particularity as unique individuals with a sense of fate, and a desire to fend of the end in order to purchase time with those they love. At the same time it confronts readers with the question of how far we are willing to go in order to ward off that end. These are not the only questions asked, but they are perhaps at the core of the enterprise.

The narrative focuses on Kathy's particular segment of society. Within it, she belongs to privilege. The surrounding society is only hinted at, but the suggestions are perhaps more effective than the meticulous "world building" which characterises books one might more comfortably designate as "science fiction". The world here is that of an individual, as experienced; it is not an objective reality in which people live.

Ishiguro is always lovely, and his narrators are given the courtesy of an individual voice. That of Kathy H. is a resigned, peaceful one with undercurrents of passion and loss. Sometimes too peaceful and resigned, perhaps. The narrative is structured as a series of memories, told and explained for the benefit of a reader who is not of our society/time, but that of Kathy's. As such, it functions as a vindication of her soul, her individuality. It sets out the price being paid for it. Subtly.

It is a very good book. It should be read.

Comments

Tor,  04.04.11 23:04

Whereas the description
story of Kathy H., who works as a carer, and whose back story and memories of the school Hailsham form the main body of the narrative...

does not particularly make me want to read the book, this one does:
The story does not depend on one's ability to keep the true status of the residents of Hailsham a secret. I firmly believe most people will figure out what is going on very quickly.

It sounds exciting, and perhaps as important, it makes me want to see if I can "figure out what is going on very quickly". Unfortunately, I already have a pile of things to read, several of them relevant to my PhD, but I think I shall add this one as well.

Another reason why I held back on starting this book was the cover. I thought it looked ... bland. I really dislike these nondescript covers. It does make sense once you have read the book, but it really did not make me want to read it in the first place.
Matteus,  05.04.11 10:04

I've done the same thing, and not bought this book several times, because it seemed like the kind of book ladies in their fifties read over a huge bowl of frothy milk that has once stood next to an espresso.

I will mend my ways.
Camilla,  05.04.11 12:18

On the whole I think the wrapping for this book has been unfortunate. Taking the title and the cover together with the purposefully vague descriptions, one is bound to come to that conclusion. I suppose the low expectations it creates makes the impact all the greater for the few who break through and read it, but it makes me sad that people who should read it don't. Perhaps it is all designed as a way to trick fifty-something latte-drinking ladies into reading something of substance?