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Reading Buddies Discussion: “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Happy Friday, everyone! How are you enjoying Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro? I, for one, am having a hard time putting it down. There’s something about it that keeps sucking me back in. I’d planned to discuss just through part one today. Even though I’ve passed that point in my own reading, I think I’ll stick to that stopping point. If you haven’t gotten that far, I’d probably say skip this post and come back to it later…I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone! As always, feel free to talk about any part of the book in the comments; just be sure to warn about spoilers.

I knew before I even opened the book that there was a twist, that Never Let Me Go started out looking like one thing and ended up being quite different. So from page one I was on the lookout for things that didn’t seem quite right: carers and donors, the attention paid to student health, the emphasis on creativity, the apparent lack of real academic courses, the students’ inability to have children. I was shocked when, toward the end of part one, Miss Lucy came out and told the students what their purpose was, why they’d been created. I’d known Hailsham wasn’t your typical school, but I hadn’t expected something quite so controversial and difficult. I’m very interested to see where Ishiguro is taking us.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (cover)I get the feeling we don’t have the whole story. Not all the oddities have been explained; there are still plenty of mysteries surrounding Hailsham and its students. I feel like there’s more to be revealed. I love how Ishiguro reveals the tidbits about the Hailsham kids, sliding them into Kathy’s narration like they’re perfectly normal–which for her, they are. I think that makes the abnormalities stand out even more for me, the fact that they’re part of Kathy’s everyday life the way routines that would seem foreign to her are part of mine.

I think Ishiguro does a fantastic job capturing the relationships between kids and teens. The clique of girls, the bullying of the boys, the confused romances and on-again off-again friendships seem right on to me. I like Kathy and Tommy, though I’m not sure about Ruth yet. I also like Kathy’s narration, the way she’ll start off in one direction, say that’s not what she wanted to talk about, then get herself back on track. I like that she isn’t highly poetic or eloquent; the book reads like she’s just trying to get her thoughts and memories down on paper. I think that’s part of what draws me to the book.

Never Let Me Go is my first Ishiguro novel. Is it yours too, or have you read others? At this point, I definitely plan to read more of his works!

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  • http://zenleaf.amandagignac.com Amanda

    I have to admit, I’d watched a specific kind of movie right before reading this one, and it was related to the same subject as this book, so when I opened it up to read it, I knew within the first couple pages what the twist related to. I guess that sort of thing was just on my mind. I didn’t realize it was meant to be a spoiler! I actually included it in the synopsis of my review. *headdesk*

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  • http://www.coffeeandabookchick.com Coffee and a Book Chick

    I had to skip through your review because I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Never Let Me Go, narrated by Emilia Fox who is brilliant! I’m looking forward to the final chapters!

  • Anita

    I’ve read both Never Let Me Go and Remains of the Day, and I loved them both! What impresses me most about Ishiguro (at least the two I’ve read) is the incredible control he has over his narrative voice. In this book, and even more in Remains of the Day, I felt I could never quite trust what the narrator was telling me, it was always a little skewed or a little incomplete, and it was up to me to piece together the reality behind the narrator’s story. Both books are utterly heart-breaking, but I couldn’t put them down. I can’t wait to read more of his work.

    • Erin

      I’m glad to hear Ishiguro’s narrative control is a common feature of his novels! I just loved how he put the reader right there with Kathy, seeing the world through her eyes. I’m excited to get to The Remains of the Day now, which I have on my shelf.

  • http://kristilovesbooks.blogspot.com Kristi

    I loved this when I read it this summer. I had seen the trailer for the movie which kind of gives away a ton of plot points. Even knowing what was going on, I still found the book haunting, in a good way. I think Kathy’s matter-of-fact narration is perfect and kind of shows how she’s accepted it all as inevitable. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book.

    I have read The Remains of the Day by Ishiguro and loved that as well. I love his subtle style.

    • Erin

      I hate when movie trailers (and book summaries, for that matter) give away plot points! Though I don’t think I’d have not enjoyed the book had I known ahead of time where it was going. The Remains of the Day is on my shelf, and I’ll definitely be reading it!

  • http://www.whatbookshouldireadtoday.com/ Lulu

    Great review. I’ve got to read this soon. I have Remains of the Day on my shelf as well. Are you planning to read it?

    • Erin

      I have The Remains of the Day as well. I do plan to read it, though exactly when, I’m not sure yet.

  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    I loved this book and actually read it aloud to my husband. We are hoping to see the movie this weekend, because it just arrived at our house from Netflix. I hope you continue to enjoy the book!

    • Erin

      I hope the movie is as good! You’ll have to let me know what you think!

  • http://perduedansleslivres.blogspot.com virginie

    I didn’t know anything about Never Let Me Go before reading. I did not know much about Kazuo Ishiguro either and the only book I knew about (but not read) was Remains of the Day. Needless to say that I was surprised as I read Never Let Me Go as I didn’t expect at all that kind of story!
    I wondered what kind of school Hailsham was, who were those kids and where their parents were, if any.
    Kathy is a character I immediately loved and thought that she was meant to be a carer, as she has true empathy for others, even as a kid. It took a while before I understood what was really going on.
    I began my reading in February, fearing to be late in the schedule (as I don’t read in English as fast as I read in French), but I finished the book in just a few days. It’s such a great book!

    • Erin

      I expected my reading to take longer, too! I found myself going back to the book every time I had a spare minute. I agree about Kathy. Initially, I thought kids were either donors or carers, and I definitely felt Kathy was on the right path. I’m so glad we were both pleasantly surprised by Never Let Me Go!

  • http://www.eclectic-eccentric.com Trisha

    I haven’t been able to pick this one up yet. I’m so behind on things that readalongs have taken a back seat to ARC reading. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up soon and join in the fun!

    • Erin

      I know how that goes! If it wasn’t my own “readalong,” I’d be in the same place you are. It’s my classics project that’s suffering because of the ARCs. Hope you get caught up soon :-)

  • http://www.ardentreader.wordpress.com Christina

    You managed to get much more out of this book than I did.

  • Lisa

    When I started the book-I was under the impression it was a suspense or murder-mystery book. After about 20 pages I realized I was mistaken and instinctively knew what was really going on at Hailsham (perhaps because I was already in the “solve a mystery” mode)

  • http://Www.lifewithbooks.com Jenners

    I read this last year and had a similar reaction as you. It was such a subtle way to tell this story … It was like the author was having you write your own story about this society on your own because you get the details from Kathy in such a fragmented and matter of fact way.

    • Erin

      Yes, exactly! Though I don’t think Kathy was being deliberately vague. It was like she was just relating details as they came to her. There were also points when she said things like, “I don’t know how it was where you were, but…” that made me realize this was her reality. In the same way I wouldn’t explain the parts of my life others with similar lives would already know about, Kathy left out details and narrated in a way that made it seem she assumed she might share a background with the reader.

      • Anita

        I agree with you, Erin (and Jenners!), but I would also argue that there’s a sense in which she’s holding back on what she is saying — not so much because she’s trying to mislead or anything, but more because she’s trying to resist coming to terms with the emotional impact of her situation. Does that make sense? I think part of what’s so fascinating about the book is trying to figure out what it is she knows but is not articulating because she’s unable to face it herself. I think this same dynamic is what makes Remains of the Day so absolutely compelling.

  • http://alitareads.wordpress.com Alita

    I started the book on Thursday and was worried I would be able to finish part one by the end of Friday. Definitely didn’t have to worry about that! I’ve been completely pulled into the story, too. Going in, I knew what the students’ purpose was, but that didn’t prepare me for the implications on their lives. How they have to stay perfectly happy, how they can’t make any plans for the future. But there are still so many details still missing – one of the reasons why I can’t put the book down is that I must know what’s going on!

    • Erin

      I hope you’re continuing to enjoy the book! I’m really looking forward to the next discussion. I feel like there’s a ton to talk about with this one!