Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Type: Fiction, novel
I read it: July 2018
I was vaguely aware of the speculative element that is ever-so-slowly revealed in Never Let Me Go, but like I’ve mentioned before, anything that takes place at a boarding school already has a tinge of the unreal to it. But sci-fi elements aside (and the author provides a very plausible scenario), the story is about growing up, and the subtle ways we change each other when we are impressionable, and how we remember (or misremember) those changes.
The entire story is built on recalling memories, and I realize that some people must be quite good at this, as I suppose novelists in particular are–one can see why Ishiguro is so fascinated by observation and memory. Or perhaps the more sensitive and open among us are better at fully experiencing an experience, and letting it lodge in them for better or worse. I don’t think I have a fraction of the specific memories that the narrator has. And reminiscing alongside others has its own challenges when “there’s never enough time. You’re always in a rush, or else you’re too exhausted to have a proper conversation.” Sounds like the parenting life.
Reading Never Let Me Go takes patience, as the author unwinds the story in a very methodical (some would say unnecessarily labored) way, circling and recircling around minor events in the lives of young students, particularly three close friends. I happened to be reading Shriek: An Afterword at the same time, and in that book VanderMeer employs a very similar method of general progression that consists of restarts and doubling back. But if you can click into the style and pace, the novel is a warm and thoughtful read about interior lives and all the small gestures, moments, and comments that can, trickle by trickle, shape the course of a river that comprises a lifetime.