never let me go – kazuo ishiguro

Never Let me Go

I have never read an Ishiguro book, and I have never even seen Remains Of The Day, but I saw an interview with Keira Knightley and a couple of trailers for the film of Never Let Me Go and was rather intrigued, so thought I’d give the book a try.

I finished it about 4 days ago, but haven’t really known where to start with my review, as it left me feeling a little confused.

The book was apparently shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005 and the 2006 Arthur C Clarke Award, which is obviously science-fiction.  But having read it, I think the idea of it being sci-fi is just weird.

I think most people know by now what the story is but will warn you THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!

The story is set in an alternative reality where most major diseases are curable and life expectancy is high.  Part of the reason for this is the availability of replacement organs.  this seems to be the only ‘alternative’ in this reality – hence why it doesn’t feel sci-fi in any shape or form.

The story is told by Kathy, now in her early 30s and starts in an alternative 70s at Hailsham, seemingly a very old-fashioned boarding school, where Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are students.  The Hailsham students know that they are special, and the fact that they have been cloned to become organ donors and are unlikely to live through more than three donations, therefore ‘completing’ as very young adults is revealed throughout the story.

Tommy & Ruth have a relationship as young students into their teens, even though there is obviously a strong bond between Kathy & Tommy.

The story progresses through the 80s when they leave Hailsham to live in ‘The Cottages’ with other ex-students from around the country while they wait for either their ‘notification’ or to leave to train as a carer.  Things come to a head between the three friends, and Kathy leaves to become a carer.

In the 90s, she chances upon Ruth again, and they meet up with Tommy – eventually coming face-to-face with the realities of their existence.

The book is narrated as if Kathy is just talking to you, it’s very chatty and jumps around the timeline, as if she’s just remembered certain things.  This can be quite confusing as to the order of events sometimes but it is a very easy book to read.

It really is just about relationships though, and to be honest, Kathy doesn’t come across as a very nice person.  I think the point within the story is to show Ruth in a bad light most of the time, but I got SO frustrated with Kathy as she was so irritating – a weird mixture of sappy and combatative.  And Tommy – pathetic.

And I’ve said before, if I don’t really care about the characters, it’s hard for me to lose myself in the story.  however, the idea of the story was very good – I wish that the actual way it had come about, what the other ‘schools’ were like, how increased life-expectancy had impacted on society had been explored more rather than these three frankly annoying characters.

So – I felt that I must have missed something, and last night went to watch the film to see if it opened my eyes a bit more.

It was beautifully shot, totally grim, Keira Knightley was amazing…and actually did ugly very well.  I hadn’t realised that Carey Mulligan was the girl from my absolute favourite episode of Doctor Who – Blink.  She was OK, but played Kathy far differently to how I’d read her.  She seemed far more ‘worldly’ – always had a half-smirk on her face as if she knew more than Tommy & Kathy.  Andrew Garfield annoyed me immensely.  Shame he didn’t die in the first scene really…

There was so much left out, and one of the key scenes was completely altered.  Where a 12 year old(ish) Kathy is dancing to Never Let Me Go in the book, she is discovered by Madame – this is crucial to the story, I feel.  But in the film, it’s Ruth that sees her.  I don’t see what the point of that change was.

There were other changes – the relevance of Norfolk isn’t explored, for example.  However, I did like the film – could maybe have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t just read the book.

All in all – I don’t think the book is all it was cracked up to be, but was entertaining enough.

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