Book 22: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is the third Ishiguro book I’ve read and I can now say with confidence he’s one of the greatest writers of the English language.

He published his first critically-acclaimed novel in the year I was born, 1982, and won the Booker Prize when I was still in primary school so I’m not exactly going out on a limb here – he has legions of fans. But I really can’t overstate how much I love his work.

As I’ve written elsewhere on the site, I only discovered him last year when I picked up his latest book, The Buried Giant, on a whim. It’s overt fantasy elements – dragons and knights and an epic quest – alienated a lot of people but I thought it was a rich, emotional novel that used the tired tropes of the genre to construct a powerful allegory about aging and memory.

Indeed, it’s curious The Buried Giant turned off so many critics because it wasn’t the first time Ishiguro had experimented with genre. It’s almost as if they didn’t notice that Never Let Me Go is, at root, a sci-fi novel – it’s main characters are clones, bred to have their organs harvested by the rich. But here too Ishiguro uses his premise not as the foundation for some elaborate, twist-filled plot but as a way of exploring complex ideas about people.

It’s a story about love and regret and mortality, but also about society’s unnerving ability to ignore uncomfortable truths. It’s a very English book, almost pastoral, melancholic but sober. In lesser hands it could easily become overwrought but in Ishiguro’s it’s just quietly devastating.

Next: I haven’t decided yet!

Author: adamgartrell

Political journalist drowning in books

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