In this novel, Mr. Ishiguro has set aside the windy Kafkaesque pretensions of his last two books to tell a tight, deftly controlled story. Though the grisly material he's dealing with is light years removed from that in The Remains of the Day, the resulting novel is just as accomplished and, in a very different way, just as melancholy and alarming.
Michiko Kakutani - The New York Times
There is no way around revealing the premise of Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel. It is brutal, especially for a writer celebrated as a poet of the unspoken. But it takes a while for us to get a handle on it. Since it's the nature of Ishiguro narrators to postpone a full reckoning of their place in the world, all we know in the early going is that we don't quite know what's going on.
Sarah Kerr - The New York Times Book Review
What Madame thinks she sees will not be revealed for many pages, but it gets right to the essence of this quite wonderful novel, the best Ishiguro has written since the sublime The Remains of the Day. It is almost literally a novel about humanity: what constitutes it, what it means, how it can be honored or denied. These little children, and the adults they eventually become, are brought up to serve humanity in the most astonishing and selfless ways, and the humanity they achieve in so doing makes us realize that in a new world the word must be redefined. Ishiguro pulls the reader along to that understanding at a steady, insistent pace. If the guardians at Hailsham "timed very carefully and deliberately everything they told us, so that we were always just too young to understand properly the latest piece of information," by the same token Ishiguro carefully and deliberately unfolds Hailsham's secrets one by one, piece by piece, as if he were slowly peeling an artichoke.
Jonathan Yardley - The Washington Post
Ishiguro's previous novels, including the Booker Prize winning The Remains of the Day and A Pale View of the Hills, have been exquisite studies of microcosmic worlds whose inhabitants struggle with loss and love, despair and hope. Above all, his characters strive to forge an enduring self-identity that can withstand the blows of an uncaring world. His new novel centers on one such character, Kathy H., and her attempts not only to find herself but also to understand her role in a mysterious world whose meanings she often fails to comprehend. As a child, Kathy H. attended Hailsham, a private preparatory school whose teachers and guardians sheltered the students from reality. Now 31, Kathy has assumed the position for which she was trained at Hailsham so long ago, and she has put the memories of her Hailsham days out of her mind. When she is thrown together with two of her old school friends, she begins to relive experiences that both call into question her friendships and deepen them. Her memories reveal also that the pastoral and pleasant Hailsham harbored dark and mysterious secrets that she now can begin to understand. Ishiguro's elegant prose and masterly ways with characterization make for a lovely tale of memory, self-understanding, and love. —Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA
Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grow up together as children at exclusive Hailsham, a remote boarding school secluded in the English countryside. Hailsham is a place of rigid and mysterious rules, and teachers constantly remind their charges just how special they are. Still, Hailsham will come to be regarded fondly by them, a haven that they will only later appreciate. Now, years later, Ruth and Tommy are drastically weakened by organ donation surgeries, and are ultimately waiting to "complete." While caring for the two at different British centres, a grown-up Kathy only now begins to understand what makes the three of them so special, and how it has determined the courses of their lives. Melancholy, suspenseful, and at times alarming, this novel is a compellingly dark page-turner. As Ishiguro slowly and carefully unveils the truth about Hailsham, he reveals the dark underbelly of a post-war society prepared to take any measures, no matter how extreme, in order to vanquish its own loss and suffering. Ishiguro succeeds in building suspense and then deftly reveals only snatches of meaning in carefully controlled increments. Never Let Me Go is an eerie novel about the potential future relationship between modern science and Western society—and the conflicting consequences. Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults.
Sarah Howard - KLIATT
An ambitious scientific experiment wreaks horrendous toll in the Booker-winning British author's disturbingly eloquent sixth novel (after When We Were Orphans, 2000). Ishiguro's narrator, identified only as Kath(y) H., speaks to us as a 31-year-old social worker of sorts, who's completing her tenure as a "carer," prior to becoming herself one of the "donors" whom she visits at various "recovery centers." The setting is "England, late 1990s" —more than two decades after Kath was raised at a rural private school (Hailsham) whose students, all children of unspecified parentage, were sheltered, encouraged to develop their intellectual and especially artistic capabilities, and groomed to become donors. Visions of Brave New World and 1984 arise as Kath recalls in gradually and increasingly harrowing detail her friendships with fellow students Ruth and Tommy (the latter a sweet, though distractible boy prone to irrational temper tantrums), their "graduation" from Hailsham and years of comparative independence at a remote halfway house (the Cottages), the painful outcome of Ruth's breakup with Tommy (whom Kath also loves), and the discovery the adult Kath and Tommy make when (while seeking a "deferral" from carer or donor status) they seek out Hailsham's chastened "guardians" and receive confirmation of the limits long since placed on them. With perfect pacing and infinite subtlety, Ishiguro reveals exactly as much as we need to know about how efforts to regulate the future through genetic engineering create, control, then emotionlessly destroy very real, very human lives—without ever showing us the faces of the culpable, who have "tried to convince themselves.... That you were less than human, so it didn't matter." That this stunningly brilliant fiction echoes Caryl Churchill's superb play A Number and Margaret Atwood's celebrated dystopian novels in no way diminishes its originality and power. A masterpiece of craftsmanship that offers an unparalleled emotional experience. Send a copy to the Swedish Academy.
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