Diary in a dark world: Never Let Me Go – By Kazuo Ishiguro

Dystopian, Fictional Memoir, Romance, Sci-Fi

I was around two-thirds of the way through Frankenstein when I realised I had barely read in a week. I’d enjoyed the book up until halfway, at which point I often found myself re-reading the same paragraphs, forcing myself to go on. I was in a rut. Whether this was due to the book or my state of mind I’m not sure, but I wanted to get out of it. Looking up at my stack of books for inspiration, I realised almost immediately what I should read. I’d bought Never Let Me Go a while ago after hearing about the book and the even more popular film. It’d been sitting on my shelf for a while, and for no particular reason, I had never got around to reading it.


Never Let Me Go is set in a darkly distorted version of our present – too familiar to be dystopian, but not quite true-to-life enough to be realistic fiction. The book centres on three students’ childhood in a picturesque boarding school and their lives after leaving, following their friendships and romances. Written from the near future, the narrative meanders spontaneously as Kathy H, the narrator, recalls memories from her past. It reminds me of a diary – descriptive, but not boring; somewhat digressive, with one anecdote leading on to the next, but not difficult to follow. Although it’s hard to put my finger on how, the book is definitely well written whilst also remaining highly readable – a rare feat.

Before starting the book, I read the cover’s review excerpts; one described the novel’s subject as ‘ourselves, seen through a glass, darkly.’ (Margaret Atwood, Slate.com) When I began reading, however, I was confused – I struggled to recognise any of our society reflected in the book’s skewed world. It was only as more details were revealed, near the end of the book, that the setting stopped being a distant horrific fantasy, but became conceivable, something that I could imagine happening. I was left with a scary thought, a dismal vision for the world’s future.

Overall, Never Let Me Go is a fantastic book – readable, well-written, and a familiar narrative with thought-provoking themes running beneath the surface. I would recommend the book to those who enjoy books largely about relationships; it is also great for people who like dark, somewhat dystopian stories.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAA (8)

Writing: AAAAAAAA (7)

Pace: Slow/Medium

Buy at Waterstones (UK)

Buy on Amazon (UK)

Buy at Barnes & Noble (US)

Buy on Amazon (US)

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog – By Muriel Barbery

Romance

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is about the inhabitants of an affluent Parisian apartment building. Its split narrative is from the perspectives of a secretly intelligent and well-read concierge, and a twelve-year-old girl who plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. They seem to lack passion and happiness, until a new arrival to the building breathes new hope into their lives.

Up to the middle of the book, I had come close to putting it down a few times. It’s pretentious and aloof, and despite proclaiming that its narrators are highly intelligent, it lacks proof of this. It’s unnecessarily wordy and full of itself; every other page seems to have a block of text describing a pretentious thought or feeling on life, which at least to me seemed either obvious, or nonsensical.

Overall, I struggled to find The Elegance of the Hedgehog’s underlying message. Perhaps I was missing something, but it seemed to me that I was meant to have been inspired by its so-called ‘Profound Thoughts’ and ‘Journal of the Movements of the World’. I didn’t find them profound, just tedious to read. However, it is heart-warming, especially as it progresses, and I couldn’t help but enjoy it. I think its sweet, romantic love story is quite irresistible.

You might enjoy this book if you like books that take a shot at being philosophical, although I think it has an absence of substance. It’s a slow, tedious read, but surprisingly rewarding near the end.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAA

Writing: AAAAAA

Pace: Slow