“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro
(First publication: 2005 / This edition: Faber and Faber Limited 2010)
Taken at the Deus Ex Machina booth at the Made by Legacy market last weekend. Coffee and croissant with Mika.
‘Yes, we’re doing this now and I’m glad we’re doing it now. But what a pity we left it so late.’ (p.235)
About two years ago, I started watching “Never Let Me Go” (obsession with Carey Mulligan) but turned it off after five minutes or so into it—was bored or not in the mood. Then a year ago during a good-bye dinner/party for my friend in Tokyo, while
helping watching her pack her suitcase, we found a copy of the book—it had belonged to someone in the dorm/guesthouse and my friend offered it to me. Despite the two friends present both saying the story’s really good, I still wasn’t in the mood for it and declined the offer.
I finally got it in May this year on a BIG book shopping spree with my friend, Mika (who was also present at that dinner in Tokyo). I think I was just going to get “The Remains of the Day” but she persuaded me to get this one as well.
SO. What did I “know” (or assume) prior to reading this:
1. It will be very, very depressing.
2. There’s a group of three friends—and there’s probably some love-triangle situation going on. It might be cheesy.
3. It’s in some… futuristic, dystopian…sci-fi vibe-ish…world? Not much of a sci-fi fan, so that’s another reason why I had put it off for so long.
I took it with me to the Made by Legacy market this past weekend, and again, Mika showed her excitement about me reading it. I remember saying, ‘But it’s a depressing story, isn’t it? I feel like, “Why would I want to read it if it’s going to depress me?”‘ She replied, ‘But you like depressing stuff, don’t you? That’s why you like 500 Days of Summer.’ I never thought about myself that way, but I guess to some extent it’s kind of true.
SO. I started reading this yesterday around 8pm—and read until midnight. I read again today from around 10am and finished it around 2pm. My eyes are still sore from all that reading and resisting sleep. The book is that captivating, and I just wanted to keep on reading and reading. Even though the story’s made me feel all numb and kind of empty, I still love it.
It wasn’t as “depressing” as I thought it would be, or as I had prepared myself for; I just felt numb. The story has triggered, refreshed, and boosted my existential frustrations and my number-one fear of: “I’m running out of time”.
But…seriously though, when I read this line I wanted to scream: ‘Yes, we’re doing this now and I’m glad we’re doing it now. But what a pity we left it so late.’ (p.235)
The story surrounds the lives of three best friends: Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. Kathy is the narrator and she goes down memory lane and replays the scenes with Ruth and Tommy, while attempting to explain what makes them (and others that attended their school) different. It’s not as “dystopian” and “sci-fi” as I assumed, but there is this dark, twisted version of the world—and immersed in it, you come to understand more about what it means to be human.
This is the second book by Ishiguro that I’ve read. I read ‘Nocturnes’—a collection of short stories—a few months ago, and that one also made me feel pretty numb and depressed, even more than ‘Never Let Me Go’ did. I like ‘Never Let Me Go’ more though—it’s more absorbing, and though pretty dark, I enjoyed being led into the school the three best friends went to and being on missions with them to figure out life. I’d recommend it.
Also, the title of the book refers to this song by Judy Bridgewater (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UX6tzE7P44).
But the song that was constantly playing in my head was this one by Florence + The Machine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMBTvuUlm98
Here are a few of my favorite lines from the book:
We were virtually attempting to square a circle. (p.258)
‘I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. That’s how I think it is with us. It’s a shame […] because we’ve loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can’t stay together forever.’ (p.277)