Thursday, May 30, 2013

Athena K's Review - Never Let Me Go

Predictably, I'm entranced by yet another Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Never Let Me Go caught and held my attention, surprised me (even in the way that it surprised me), and will have me reflecting on its themes for some time to come.

Kath, Ishiguro's main character, is another subtly unreliable narrator. Her narrative style is deceptively simple - a bit of "dear diary" and lots of plain blunt language. If you think her style is boring, I believe you are missing the marvellously rich subtext lying in the things Kath does not quite say. The narrative push comes from her allusion to stories before a chapter break after which she tells the story. This style, combined with the touch of mystery, made this hard for me to put down.

It turns out that the mystery aspect, as well as the "science fiction" aspects of the story ended up being the least interesting things about this novel. Instead, this is a story about the human condition, and the themes are distilled by filtering them through the lens of a dystopic alternate reality. The most striking idea for me was the idea of community - how we need to construct communities, how belonging to a community can distort a person's perception of fundamental aspects of life, and what it means to a person who is left out of community, or whose community has disappeared - and perhaps ultimately the tragic loneliness of the human condition.

At some point toward the end, I became frustrated that this was not actually a mystery novel, and that it did not tackle the 'political' aspects of the issues it raised. But the characters' submission to their destinies moved the spotlight to the contemplation of what it means to have a full life - can it be that art, love, friendship, belonging, duty, and sacrifice are enough? I'm still not sure.

Highly recommended.

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