A review by amandagstevens
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

2.0

Three kids in a boarding school for "special" students. Very special. Three adults talking about their experiences at said school and piecing together what it all meant. It might have worked if most of the answers weren't revealed (or easily guessed) along the way. Or if the answers hadn't been so bland and dissatisfying.

No, I take that back. Even if the reveal/climax of this book were Madame telling the three protagonists, "Guess what, kids,
Spoileryou are clones!
", this book would not have worked for me. In fact, that cliche might have made it worse. Their knowing what they were had the potential of drawing more tension throughout the book, if the writing had been better. The attempt at conversational prose here looks like this: "I hated ice cream ..." [one paragraph later] "... as I say, I hated ice cream" and "I didn't know then, but I would find out that time when we talked on the beach" [scene break] "This is what happened when we talked on the beach." My reading stream of consciousness: Yes, Kathy/Ishiguro, you said that, fifty words ago you said it, please don't repeat yourself on every page ... you're not going to repeat yourself on every page, are you? ... okay, you are going to repeat yourself on every page ... The intrusiveness of the craft prevented me from ever immersing in the story.

But if I had, I'd be no less annoyed, because Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth are some of the most annoying fictional people I have met. Their relational dynamic as children is somewhat interesting (Ruth's passive aggressive behavior especially, if like me you enjoy digging into character psychology), but as adults, they are maddening and unsympathetic. I get what Ishiguro was saying about the power of conditioning and even of self-delusion. I get that this is a somewhat dystopian piece of literature (though the storyworld is left undeveloped), and in this genre the little man doesn't always beat the system. However, we mourn the little man who loses because he tries with everything in him and still fails. He refuses to be resigned, and we hope we would be so brave if ever we had to be. Characters who meander down the life path chosen for them without ever trying to change things or escape or do better for someone else at risk to themselves? Sure, there are "sheep" like this (all totalitarian regimes depend on it), but they are not to be called heroes.

And to anyone who says "that's the point of the book; there are no heroes, only sheep" ... okay, yes, obviously you are correct. But that's not the kind of book that will burn bright in this reader's heart or create any emotion or attachment. Therefore, from me, this book earns two stars.