Thursday, December 9, 2010

Never Let Me Go

***** This review has major spoilers because I don't feel I can review it properly without talking about the basic plot. If you want to stay in the dark, don't read it. You've been warned. *****

Summary from Goodreads:

"As a child, Kathy—now thirty-one years old—lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed--even comforted--by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood—and about their lives now.

I normally don't write reviews with spoilers in them and I also don't normally copy and paste summaries from other sources. I'm writing spoilers in my review because a major plot point is made to be a huge mystery that isn't revealed until about half way through the book. I suspected it very early in the novel and there's no tension or lead up to it. It's just uttered nonchalantly by one of the characters randomly. I'm not trying to spoil it for anyone, but it's a fundamental portion of the story and I can't really write a review without talking about it.

Anyway, this is a book about clones. Kathy and her friends are clones made to harvest their organs later in life for unspecified people. My problem with the novel is that this is a really interesting topic, but is written about in one of the most boring ways possible. The actual writing is very good. Ishiguro is a great writer with prose that flows really well. However, the greatest writing in the world doesn't help a dull story. The story details the drama within the lives of three childhood friends. I would have liked to read about how they feel about being forced to give up their organs for others or the process they have to go through or who the organs are going to or why the government even allows these clones to have any lives at all. The logistics of the situation are infinitely more interesting than the vapid, annoying lives of the three main characters. There just isn't enough revealed about the process. Also, these characters didn't change at all from childhood to adulthood. I would have liked some sort of epiphany or evolution from them. They don't fight or protest at all and just seem to be resigned to the process when they figure it out. If they felt that freedom was important enough to seek out someone from their past and beg for help, I think it's important enough to run away or fight or do something. So, ultimately, nothing really happened throughout the entire novel.

Another problem I had with the novel was the teachers at the school. They were fighting to show that the clones were just as human as they and deserved to have lives just like anyone else. However, this isn't enough to have them escape the fate of having their organs involuntarily ripped from them. There seems to be a cognitive dissonance here. It can't be both ways. They're either subhuman organ machines or people. The fact that they allowed people that they knew full well were human to be treated this way means that they are just immoral.

If the novel had been more focused on the science fiction elements, I think it could have been a wonderful book. It feels like the real issues of the situation aren't addressed at all. I would definitely read other novels by Ishiguro in the future, but I wouldn't recommend this one to others.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

1 comment:

M.A.D. said...

Very good review and points made!

I haven't read this one yet, although I stlll may if I happen to trip across it. But what you said about the evolution of the characters is a major bust when the author does not think to incorporate that developemnt into their storyline, because if they don't evolve they are just stagnant and we, the reader, cannot truly relate to their issues on any real sympathetic level. If that makes any sense LOL (long day, I'm tired/brain dead)

Anyway, great reading your review - very well thought out!