Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Wow, I honestly don't even know how to start this review. I don't quite know what I expected from this book, but it definitely wasn't what the book ended up giving me. I have heard tremendous things about Kazuo Ishiguro as an author, especially after he won the Nobel Prize, and I was excited to finally give one of his books a try. I had been advised that Never Let Me Go was his most accessible, so I added it to my list for this year and it was one of my most anticipated books of the year. However, I had a difficult time enjoying this one for the majority of the reading and would have a difficult time recommending it to anyone.

The best word I would use to describe this book is boring. This book bored me to tears for the first 240 pages. The early parts of it almost read as a young girls diary at a boarding school as she has interactions with teachers and classmates. After her proper boarding school, she moves onto another less formal type of school where she has interactions with classmates. That sums up the first two parts of the book. She does a little growing up, has falling outs with friends, but honestly the drama of these parts is pretty... boring. There isn't a significant amount of conflict going on, just some thoughts and normal day interactions of some young people in England. Yea, there's a sort of twist that comes up about halfway through, but it was predictable and by the time it came up I had already A) seen it coming and B) didn't care that much because it didn't lead to anything insignificant. I suppose the point is to portray a type of society where a certain technological advancement is commonplace, but that wasn't the biggest issue. The main character has no agency through the first two parts because there was nothing to have agency about.

Since I finished this book I have gone back and read a lot of praise and criticism (and criticism of criticism) and can honestly say I didn't expect much plot wise out of the book. I just thought the plot was so non-existent that I had a hard to getting through it. Through the narrators time at Hailsham and the Cottages there are almost no problems she faces outside of having issues with Ruth. She just kind of lives her life and does things and that's about it.

Now, I personally think this is a stylistic choice of the author. In this book, the main character is part of a group of people who have been given a short lot in life (I don't want to specifically say what it is because it's a spoiler, but let's just say it's not great). The narrator and her friends sort of just accept this as fact. There is no uprising. There is no coalition against the oppressor government. Everyone in the book just accepts the way their lives are and go along with everything, and I think this mirrors real life in an almost too accurate way. Modern society gives a lot of people the short stick; people are expected to work for the majority of their days for short weekends, stagnant pay, and rising prices. And we all just kinda go along with it. There isn't some rage against the machine style uprising, everyone just keeps going to work and coming home and going to bed and doing it all over again.

So writing these thoughts out, it was actually kind of a genius book. I would say Never Let Me Go is the perfect allegory for modern society. Everyone basically accepts things that are harmful and terrible and carry on with their day. There isn't some revolution that comes through that bands the people together. We all just crack on and try to get through the day. Which is exactly what the people in the book do, despite their exhaustion and constant reminder of how badly things have gone for them. This book definitely offers a bleak perspective, but it is also a perfect reflection of how people act in our society.