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Review of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the past couple of days I’ve been walking around as if under a spell. Sometimes I spent hours staring at a fixed point, such as the ceiling or a clock. The unabridged audiobook edition of Never Let Me Go gripped me hard from the first and kept me tethered to my earphones.

It’s been a great while since I felt so absorbed by a story. Sometimes there’s a slow build and then the author has me, like when Roth tricked me into ho-humming along into The Dying Animal. But, for whatever reason, I connected with Kazuo Ishiguro right off, and I craved and appreciated every sentence. I suspect that’s because the whole damned thing is so well integrated that you’ll find the entire story contained in every chapter, each sentence. What I heard at the first, I heard at the end.

Among the thematic threads Ishiguro left for readers to follow (betrayal, loss of innocence, obedience to the norm, self-delusion), it was his exploration of mortality that most intrigued me. And by intrigued, I mean left me with an emotional wound I’m still nursing. After all, the life of a “student” is pretty much our own, isn’t it? At some point you were told that everyone dies, but perhaps you didn’t properly understand. Maybe, like the students, someone spared you the details or you never really wanted to understand. Cue Ishiguro.

It’s easy to let the ideas overshadow the prose and the characters. That would be a shame. The most important characters are wonderfully complex — I really fell in love with them. There are a lot of supporting characters as well, but they never confused or tangled up the story, probably because they were all seen through the eyes of Kathy. As for the prose, it was just beautiful, very nuanced and evocative. Take it in slowly and appreciate Kathy’s voice.

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