Saturday, 20 December 2014

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

I've always meant to watch the film of this but never quite got around to it and then someone whose taste in books I trust recommended I read it so I did! Warning: here be spoilers.

At the beginning I liked trying to figure out what was happening and what the purpose of the school was. I started reading this on my flight up to Edinburgh with Rose, who really hates flying, so to try and distract her I was describing the book to her and we were trying to guess why the kids were at the school, and we did get it vaguely right in so far as we guessed they were clones. We came up with a whole theory which we realised later is essentially just the film The Island so apparently we are not the literary masterminds we thought we were. I've never read anything by Ishiguro before and something about it reminded me of Atwood's speculative fiction. (God this blog makes me sound like I'm obsessed with her work!)  It specifically reminded me of Oryx and Crake, probably because that features lots of stuff to do with genetic manipulation.  

I won't lie, I really shipped Kathy and Tommy! Although at times I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be a thing or if I was just reading too much into it. That's not to say I disliked Ruth though (although I kind of did. I'm not sure?). I felt really sorry for her towards the end when they were in the car and Tommy and Kathy started telling her that she should have tried to get a deferral because it just seemed unfair. Essentially, I found all of the characters interesting. I have a thing where I never entirely trust my narrator in books so I was probably slightly unnecessarily suspicious of Kathy at times, which is maybe why I hold off being too harsh on Ruth, although I'm not entirely sure why I expected her to be bending the truth. 

I just felt really sad when I finished this and I've been trying to identify why and I think it has something to do with all of the information that we're not given. Like, there isn't too much explanation given of the society; as the book goes on you get details like the fact that they're clones and they have to give donations and everything, but there's not a whole lot about how this all came about. It's just presented as normal and I just found that really sad. The book is a glimpse into the lives of these three people that you grow to care about and so stuff like Tommy dying is really sad as a result. But when you think about it, this is just a tiny taste of what loads of people are going through. Every single person that they went to school with will go through the donations and die, all of them will have people that they've loved and things that are important to them, and the same will happen to all of those other unnamed characters as well and that's just that. I think it's just wrapping my head around that sort of society, where something like that is normal, is just really difficult and makes me feel sad. It's just very unsettling.

The person who recommended this book to me also told me to watch the film after I finished it, which I did and I really enjoyed it! I like it when film adaptations of books are sort of like companions to the book if that makes sense. I don't need a film to be a 100% accurate rendering of the book (although this was actually very faithful to the source material) as long as it's done well and I felt like this was. I liked a lot of the visual choices they made, like the scene when they've gone to see the boat and Ruth asks them to forgive her for keeping them apart. The camera switches between Kathy and Tommy sat together, and then Ruth slightly apart. It was just little details like that that I thought were well done, plus the soundtrack was absolutely beautiful. I liked all of the casting choices but particularly Keira Knightley as Ruth. She's still not exactly a likeable character but I felt like she captured her well. Also, Andrew Garfield as young Tommy was ADORABLE and then when he's older Tommy he kills me. He breaks my heart during their visit to Madame; he's just so earnest a character and when he's presenting his artwork to her IT HURTS ME. There's just such a hopelessness to this story, you get immersed into the lives of these people and then that scene just makes them seem so small when you realise that there was never a chance of them changing their fate.

I really liked this book and I'm glad I read it before seeing the film because it really enhanced the experience. If anything I think I liked the film more than the book, but I know that I wouldn't have loved it as much if I hadn't read it first. I definitely want to read more of Ishiguro's work though. I sort of feel like this is going to be one of those stories that haunts me a little bit.

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