Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

kazuo_ishiguro Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a weird little book.  Trying to tell you about it without giving it all away is the challenge I’m facing, but I’m going to give it a shot because it’s better not to know too much about it before you read it.  And I want you to read it.  

Set in England in the late 1990s, it’s narrated by Kathy H., who we learn right away is a “carer”, taking care of donors.  She doesn’t explain this thoroughly so we’re left with a vague idea of what she means, an ominous feeling that doesn’t ever go away while reading the book.  When we meet Kath, she’s in her early 30s and has been doing her job for 11 years, but is nearing the end of her career.  Much of the story is Kath’s memories of her days at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school, and her friendships with Ruth and Tommy.  

At Hailsham there are cliques, like at any school.  There is teasing and bullying.  Rumors are flying and there is pressure to conform.  Yet this is a prestigious place, and the students here are special.  They are parentless but they have “guardians” who treat them with great care, making sure they are healthy and educated, but not having any sort of close personal relationship with them.   Students know they are not like their guardians or like people outside of Hailsham.  Much importance is put on creating artwork, hoping to have it selected for ‘the gallery’.  One guardian in particular gets frustrated with the students’ banter about their futures, and angrily asks them to stop with their chatter, setting them straight about who and what they are, spelling it out for them that the course of their lives has been pre-determined.  It’s a revelation for the reader, but the students already ‘know, but don’t know’, and their reaction to this outburst is subdued.  

The students grow up and leave Hailsham for The Cottages, where they go on to more training and learn from more experienced students.  It’s a bit like going on to college.  They develop adult relationships and have some freedom before moving along to their intended ‘careers’.  Tommy and Ruth become a serious couple at the cottages, although Tommy has always had feelings for Kath, and this triangle persists into adulthood. 

Reading Never Let Me Go is like peeling an onion; it is parceled out to the reader layer by layer, each chapter foreshadowing the next.   The writing is quietly powerful and deceptively simple.  It is futuristic and literary, infused with a sense of deep sadness and futility.  It is about hope, and people, and society, and it makes you think about what it means to be human.   Does love make us human?  Is it our bodies?  Our minds?  Our creativity or curiousity?  

Have you read this book?  If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  My book club will be discussing it next month and I can’t wait to see what everyone thought of it.

The Sunday Salon

img_11561Ahhh, Sunday, the one day all week we don’t have to race around to be anywhere.  Unless, of course, the church bully comes downstairs and asks, “Are we going to church?” in his accusatory “You’re all heathens!” tone, and if I say I don’t feel like it, he’ll be mad at me all morning.  

It’s weird how my husband has turned into this church guy.  He wasn’t like that the first decade we were together.  The only time I ever saw him inside a church was for a wedding or a funeral.  But now that we are PARENTS, and we have to set an EXAMPLE, he is the church bully.  If I had my way, we’d go maybe once a month.  If he had his way, we’d go twice a week.  So we end up going about 3 Sundays out of 4, and the other Sunday, he’s mad at me.  I always tell him that no one is preventing him from going by himself!

img_1101Anyway!  My daughter turned 11 this week, and we caved and got her a cell phone, so she is no longer the last girl on earth without one, and she’s pretty darn happy about it.  I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually.  I actually like the convenience of being able to get ahold of her when she’s at a friend’s house or she’s walking home from school.  She had a laser tag party with her friends last weekend, and then we celebrated on her actual birthday by having dinner at a place of her choosing (within reason, of course!).  She picked Olive Garden, because she really loves the fact that they bring basket after basket of steaming hot breadsticks.  “They just keep on coming, Mom!”  Yes they do, dear (oink, oink).  

We watched history being made Tuesday night as Barack Obama addressed a throng of supporters with his Yes, We Can acceptance speech.  My parents were here and my mother, a staunch Republican, said to no one in particular, “Well, I hope you people are happy!”  Thanks, Mom, we are!  My husband and I are Republicans who didn’t care for McCain at all, and thought he made a ridiculous choice in Palin, and who got very fed up with Dubyah, so we jumped ship.  If the Republicans could have given us a decent candidate, things might have been different.

Yesterday my daughters’ Girl Scout troops placed flags on the graves of veterans at Forest Lawn.  Many thanks to all the Veterans out there.  We are grateful and proud of you.

image003This week I read Kandide and the Secret of the Mists aloud to my kids for my book club meeting this afternoon.  Yes, it’s a children’s book for an ADULT book club, but our hostess is friends with the author so she will be attending our meeting.  The kids are coming too- should be interesting.  They’ve been very curious about what we do at book club (drink lots of wine and laugh and talk about books- so mysterious!) so now they’ll get to see for themselves.

I also read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, my book club pick for December, and have no idea how I’m going to review it without giving it away.  Maybe I’ll just put up a Publishers Weekly blurb and then insist that everyone go read it!  It was freaky and powerful.  I’ll have to read more Ishiguro (any suggestions?  The Remains of the Day?)  I read about 80 pages of The Zookeeper’s Wife, sent by WW Norton books for review.  They sent me two copies, so I’ll be giving one away soon.  However I don’t know when I’ll finish it.  It reads like a textbook and I was having a hard time with it, so I put it aside temporarily and started The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by TIffany Baker.  This one’s an ARC sent by Hachette that will be out in January.  It’s a debut novel, which is hard to believe because it is so well written.  So far I love it and I’m flying through it.  It has really well developed, quirky characters.  Also this week I finished scheduling for this virtual book tour and began scheduling for this one.  I’m looking for tour hosts, so let me know if it sounds interesting!

How was your week?  What are you reading?