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Strange New World - England in the 1990s
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
Member Name: catsholiday
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
Date: 10/09/09, updated on 17/08/11 (99 review reads)
Advantages: Very disturbing well written book
Disadvantages: none that I can think of
I picked this book up at the Westfield Centre in Derby at the Book crossing shelf in Gloria Jean's cafe. I love looking through what others have put up for sharing while I enjoy my cup of coffee. This book attracted me because of its colour scheme of orange and green which I thought might be a book based in Africa but I was mistaken. The next thing that struck me was the mysterious title and the fact that it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2005.
I had not heard of Kazuo Ishiguro prior to picking this book up but when I looked inside I discovered that he was the author of "Remains of the Day" which was a film I really found fascinating but I hadn't read the book. Ishiguro has written five novels prior to "Never Let Me Go" but this is the first of his books that I have read myself.
The novel starts by introducing us to Kathy who is the main character and the story is told through her voice and things are seen through her eyes throughout. We are informed by Kathy that she has been a carer for eleven years and that she is good at this work. She cares for donors who we assume are people who have donated organs to others. This is part one and it is set in the UK in the 1990s and this first part of the novel takes us back to Kathy's school days at Hailsham which appears to be a bit like a private boarding school initially.
We meet Kathy's friends and they appear to be cared for by guardians. These guardians seem caring but there is something a little odd about the relationship between the students and the guardians ; it is not quite that of parent and child nor is it teacher and student yet it is hard to put your finger on what is strange. The students appear quite content and go to lessons, play sport and enjoy music but something is not right. Partly it is the odd things the students have to take part in as part of their school experience like the Exchanges that take place four times a year. They have to contribute works of a creative nature such as poetry, painting or the like and these are 'sold' for exchange tokens which the students can then use to purchase items brought into the school from the outside world.
We gradually become aware that all is not what it seems, this is not a private boarding school nor is it an orphanage. These students are not normal or at least that is what is hinted. These students obviously have no experience of the outside world at all and they know only each other and their guardians. Some of the guardians say more than they should and the students try and work out what their role is and what their lives are all about.
The next part of the story follows Kathy and her friends going to the next stage of their lives in The Cottages where they are in the outside world and have to become more independent. They are able to drive and explore the world beyond Hailsham and their school days. They begin to form more adult relationships and this again is a little odd as they fall in love and have sex but is discussed in very matter of fact terms and very openly which feels unusual for someone reading the book , or at least it seemed unusual to me. It was almost like another bodily function rather than a normal caring relationship and they talked about being in love.
We are gradually finding that these students are not quite what we thought. I don't want to say too much more as I think this would spoil the book for someone wanting to read it themselves.
The third part of the story is Kathy's life as a carer and her relationship with her friends from school has changed as their lives have taken different courses.
I found this quite a disturbing book, a little like George Orwell's "1984". It is set in the English countryside and the characters move around different parts of England with a few specific places like Norfolk actually mentioned. It all seems so apparently normal on one level yet there is always this underlying tension.
Kathy tells the story is such a very innocent and childlike way accepting all that happens without question. When she falls in love it is rather like a teenage romance in its innocence but at another level they are so very sensible and selfless. I was quite moved by the relationships and how they were trapped by their situation.
The story is a simple straightforward story on one level but on another level it is a very chilling and disturbing story full of quite disturbing scientific possibilities. It is difficult to say more without giving away too much of the mystery that is cleverly maintained all the way through the story. We get fed titbits of mystery and there are some odd behaviours that we question but as fast as one thing is explained, the next question arises; there is always something we do not really understand .This mystery continues almost to the end of the book.
Once I had finished the book I lay and thought about it for ages, it is that sort of book. It makes you think about our world and the direction it is going.
I thoroughly recommend this book as a very different style of writing. It is very clever in its simplicity telling a story that is a caring story of love and friendship on one level but something much deeper and disturbing on another.
The book is a paperback published by Faber and Faber- ISBN: 057122413X and can be bought from Amazon and other high street book shops or do like I did and look out for it at a Book crossing site. Mine will be going on to my daughter in London.
This review may be posted on other sites under my name.
Summary: A book written on two levels about something quite scientifically plausible