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Customer Review

on 4 February 2005
Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel, the hauntingly titled Never Let Me Go, is much more straightforward than most of his books, and more fully comprehensible than any since The Remains of the Day. For me the fact that for once Ishiguro has a B-movie style scene where one character explains to another everything that has happened, was a weakness; and yet there is still enough lightness of detail and wealth of moral ambiguity to justify much strokey-chin thought after the last page has been closed, and even to warrant an early re-read.
The setting of the book is "England, late 1990s," but not as we know it. We can tell this even from the limited narrative offered by Kathy, who tells us very little of the real world outside her immediate (and past) environs. There are words dropped innocently but sinisterly: 'donations,' 'carers,' 'completing,' none of which have the meanings we understand. Kathy was a student at Hailsham, a residential institution for children which educated them and encouraged creative expression, but was not quite a school... They are being prepared for lives as 'carers' and 'donors', and they are a form of experiment made possible by advances in technology which, in this parallel world, came in the 1950s but which we are only seeing now.
To say more than this would ruin the story, as there are two mighty coups of revelation delivered about a quarter and halfway through the book, which resonate through the rest of the story and are quite impossible to free from your mind. After this, there is perhaps less mystery than we would expect from Ishiguro, which is disappointing but necessary to enable him to explore the characters' reactions to the truth of their world in full. Seasoned readers of his novels will be slightly surprised by the relatively informal tone of Kathy's voice, and her willingness to talk about things like sex (has *any* Ishiguro character *ever* done so before?), though the familiar languid phrasing and unrushed delivery is all present and correct.
Ishiguro has delivered another reliably fine confection in Never Let Me Go, perhaps without the pixel-perfect wondrousness of The Remains of the Day, or the mad beauty of The Unconsoled, but with more accessibility than any of his other books and, despite the unruffled surface, a cast iron certainty to perform open heart surgery on any reader who's got one to give.
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