As part of my great “find an amazing summer read that I can then recommend with good conscience to everyone I know” project, I played around with the website What Should I Read Next (www.whatshouldireadnext.com). You insert a book you liked reading and the site spits back a list of books you might like based on user-generated lists of books people like. The site suggested I might like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Never one to be immediately persuaded by an internet suggestion, I checked out some reviews and found that not only was it nominated for the Booker, but my mum liked it, too. Off to the library!
I did like the book. At first I really liked it. A lot. I had a few glimmering moments where I thought “yes!” But, as with so many things (icecream sundaes, for instance), the glory of the first few moments was not sustained through to the end. The premise of the book is really neat, and I won’t say much about it because part of the enjoyment of the first 1/3 is in trying to work out the “mystery.” That said, the “mystery” element is my chief complaint, if only because it seems Ishiguro has a fairly limited range of ways to introduce “mysterious” elements. The first person protagonist would drop some juicy information and then immediately say “but I’ll get to that later,” and then proceed to give the back-story. This sort of plot structure “tantalizing detail – extended back-story – bit of a reveal – repeat” continued throughout and became quite distracting. At a certain point the “mystery” stops being mysterious and should no longer be treated that way.
The protagonist, Kathy H, is also a bit of a whiner and yet oddly still a bit full of herself. I’m not sure I like to dislike the first person protagonist, or even if I was supposed to dislike her – but I did.
All by way of saying: great premise (kept me thinking about the ethics of the novel for days after I’d finished), but the form is repetitive and frustrating and the protagonist is sulky. I continue my search for the great summer read (happily tomorrow is my birthday and I am bound to get a least one new novel…).