Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Hard to summarise the plot of this one without giving too much away. It is told by Kathy, one of a group of students who are somehow different, and have been educated at a college where they appear to be being prepared for some special role in later life. It isn't important to Kathy that she provide details that to her seem either obvious or irrelevant to the story she's telling, and so the role of the students, and the story of the world outside, is revealed only gradually, often through allusion or incidental detail.

The book reminded me of "The Remains of the Day", in that in both cases there is a narrator who, while not untrustworthy, does not have the same awareness of the situation as the reader. In the book, some of the "guardians" at the college are described as "telling, but not telling" the students about something. And that's what quite a lot of the book was like: Kathy tells us things, without giving us all the context or background for us to understand exactly what they mean.

The writing style was impressive in that it felt like Kathy was talking, rather than writing (reinforced, I suppose, by the fact that it was a talking book). So she would sometimes correct herself, or fumble for words. I suppose Ishiguro must have spent a long time planning what words to use, but they don't sound planned.

Even though by about two-thirds of the book we have a pretty good idea of what's going on, there are questions that remain unanswered about the students' lives and attitudes. You are left thinking "but why don't you just...?" but the world that Kathy lives in is different from ours, and so I suppose part of the book's message is that we can't assume that the values we rely on are universal; maybe in that situation we would behave as Kathy does.

Very enjoyable though, I didn't want to stop listening to it. And I think it would be worth reading again, even though I "know what happens". The reading, by Emilia Fox, was excellent. The title of the book is taken from a song which Kathy likes, and I still have it going round in my head from when Emilia sang a couple of lines in it (I presume she just made up the tune, I don't think it's a real song).

Completed : 14-Jul-2006 (audiobook, read by Emilia Fox)

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