Apr 10, 2008

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go

Yes, I bought this and read it last night. Didn't really mean to zip through it like that, but after the detailed, intertwined, techy plot of Mona Lisa Overdrive,it all flowed so well I didn't feel any compulsion to put it down.

For all the fog and blur he tries to put on the reality of his characters' situation in this one, the final reveal isn't all that shocking. I mean, if you've ever read much, you know what's coming. But, I say again, sometimes it's the story itself that matters.

Ishiguro tells us almost nothing about what the main players in this book - Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy, carefully mindful students of the sort common to much of the British lit I've thumbed through - look like. I caught a glimpse of a haircut here, a favored shirt there. But their settings, the school, the grounds, the cottages, the centres where they live out their last days, are given every loving detail. When you don't own your own body, I guess where you are matters more than who you are.

What struck me most, after so much dystopian fiction, is that they never fight or try to run. It's not so much Spartan stoicism as the pre-destined plod of cattle. Not only do the main characters simply go to their fates with a hope of being "good" at it, no mention is made of anyone else attempting to skip town, get the hell away, become their own master, survive. In every other book I've read so far, it's the main character vs. the frightful society or vs. the looming dictatorship. This isn't a book about struggle or the ability of human spirit to win out over all. This is about accepting what we are taught and told, even when we know it will ruin us. About getting hold of a little music or love or a quiet moment and letting that be enough.

final thought: Creepy, even if I knew what the end would be. I sort of wish it'd lasted longer, but, honestly, I can't see where you could put more of anything without fucking up the whole flow.

Oh, and just for kicks: Margaret Atwood's review of the book.

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