Unlike many careless reviewers, I do not want to spoil Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go by revealing its details. Of course, this makes it difficult to write a proper review, but there are several exhilarating moments when the rug gets pulled from underneath and I think it’s important to preserve those until the book enters the canon, which it certainly should. I will, however, provide this humble explanation as to why I think words like “staggering” and “instant classic” are appropriate to this novel.
I get suspicious when the phrase “reflects the human condition” is thrown around in eviews of novels, films, or even paintings. It’s such a heady, vague, and dark phrase that, depending on my mood, it either a) comes across as a cheap & pretentious phrase by a show-off critic who also abuses words such as “postmodern” and “ontological” or b) it invokes an immediate & profound anxiety attack. So I’ve always kicked away that phrase until now.
Ishiguro’s novel is an unassuming, bare bones yet full-tilt meditation on the human condition – the underlying sense that life (or rather, death) is absolutely unfair because we must lose the people and experiences that define us; how elegantly and naturally we make some kind of peace with this ever-present fact; and there are far deeper undercurrents concerning loss & mortality for which I cannot even locate the words to describe. Somehow Ishiguro has found them, and transformed such dreadful & epic ideas into a page-turning domestic drama that rattles around in your background thoughts, as if you had been there all along and are just now being reminded about everything that happened.
Somewhere around page 80, the book gave me a strange, hollowed-out sensation that I have not experienced for a very long time.