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Thoughts on Katzuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" [Jan. 8th, 2006|08:48 am]
Literary Fiction Lovers


The only Ishiguro novel I've read is "The Remains of the Day," which I continue to feel is one of the highlights of late 20th century literature. Ishiguro delivers the same tonal impact here. He has the ability to delliver a main narrative voice that is limited as a human being but is insightful in her own way. Although there were other components of the novel that I found disappointing.

The novel centers around Halisham, a boarding school for a special breed of student, but we're not entirely sure what they are until relatively far into the novel, where it is revealed that the students are clones who had been born to become future organ donors. I found the way this revelation was handled slightly coy, but well-accomplished on the whole.

Although I think one of the central themes that Ishiguro wants to explore is the dividing line between human and non-human, and how a group of people that becomes relegated to the status of object must not be forgotten as people. There are a lot of parallel lessons here in terms of race: the Holocaust, the interrment of the Japanese during World War II, the Rwanda genocide. And it's funny how whenever we think we've gotten over our human tendency to dehumanize other people who are far away from us, we run into another event that proves the opposite.

So the focus of the novel ends up being on three Halisham students: best friends Ruth and Kath (the narrator), and Tommy, a boy who the two girls both like in their own ways. This is where I think the book fails, because the ways in wich Ishiguro characterizes their motivations seem to me just convenient means towards serving the plot. And without this grounding human element, the novel veers from the emotionally rich to the realm of the sci-fi page turner.

As narrator, Kath had always been quiet and introspective, and comes to Tommy's aid when he has trouble in school and is persecuted by other students. Ruth is the confident one, who at times pretends to know more than she actually does. Ruth and Tommy end up being a couple, but it is never fully explained how Ruth ends up fancying Tommy despite his outsider status. Also, Ruth behaves insufferably in many parts of the novel, but somehow everyone around her not only forgives her but continues to love her.

So that near the end of the novel, when Ruth admits that she had actively prevented Kath and Tommy to be together, the reader experiences one of those duh moments, which is never good. Ultimately, Ruth simply becomes a convenient way for tension between Kath and Tommy to build, and the prevention of their true love to be more poignant, because they are both destined to die young as organ donors. Though at this point in the novel, I couldn't maintain the illusion of this poignancy because the characters felt like a concoction of plot elements to me rather than multidimensional people. I found this highly disappointing.

[x-posted in monthlybookchat]