Never Let Me Go
Those of us who are disinclined to brevity occasionally undergo an experience that can be quite disheartening and painful. If one is inclined to story-telling, the problem can be even greater.
You have a point and it is well-illustrated by a story. So you start telling the story. Then about 2/3 of the way into the story, you realize, “Oh, no. This story is waaaay too long for the point that I’m trying to make.” But you’ve already burned up the time of your listeners, and you can’t leave them hanging. So you trudge through the rest of the story, wondering if the listeners are as bored with it as you now are — and knowing that it’s not going to end well, either. At least they are mercifully spared this latter foreknowledge.
Such is the problem with Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read it on a recommendation from someone, and I’m glad that I don’t remember who it is, so I can’t be mad at them.
The story is told first-person by a Kathy H. She is remembering her days at a boarding school and other finishing programs in Britain. She and her friends are different — they are being prepared for very specific lives. The nature of this preparation and it’s end intention are slowly revealed throughout the book (I won’t go into the details, as it would be a bit spoiler-ish).
About 2/3 of the way into the book, it becomes pretty clear what those details are. And it’s obviously a Bad Thing. But like the listeners in my earlier illustration, the reader of Never Let Me Go is unaware that this isn’t going anywhere — or at least not anywhere that’s worth 304 pages. In fact, there is a bit of misdirection that seems that it would at least somewhat ameliorate the Bad Thing — but then that turns out to be little more than urban legend.
To be sure, there is some pontificating near the end of the book so that the reader is clear that the Bad Thing is, indeed, a Bad Thing. And there is even some value to the pontificating, as Ishiguro raises an issue or two that had not occurred to me. But again, nothing that’s worth 300+ pages.
This is definitely not a plot-driven book (though the misdirection makes you think, temporarily, that it might be becoming one). This is definitely a character study. But there’s one problematic issue. It’s about characters that, in the end, we don’t really care much about.