Go by Kazou Ishiguro; Vintage, 2010; 304 pages; $15
Earlier this year, a little independent film called Never Let Me Go swept through showcase festivals and earned round after round of critical praise for its leading starlet, Carey Mulligan. The best of these exaltations bragged of the young British actress’s haunting delivery of such a vulnerable character without violating the integrity of the film’s source material, a best-selling novel and Man Booker Prize finalist written by Kazuo Ishiguro.
This work, which shares the title of its film adaptation, was originally published in 2005, but a tie-in edition of the book has just been re-printed by Fox Searchlight Pictures in a sleek paperback format. Although the studio’s agenda is apparently geared toward timing a bit of cross-promotion in sync with the movie’s limited theatrical release, I can only hope (after reading this exquisite novel) that Ishiguro’s original vision finds itself on the receiving end of the media market’s good graces.
Ironically, commercialism seems to have been far from the author’s mind when he crafted this calculatedly intellectual and delicately structured piece of fiction, which hinges upon the slightest whim of the reader as to whether it is interpreted as stimulating or obtuse. This particular high-wire act is facilitated by Ishiguro’s young protagonist named Kathy, who is caught at a crossroads between her former life at a private school and an approaching future that promises only dismay and uncertainty.
Through his approachable heroin and narrator, Ishiguro demonstrates a keen talent for writing in the mind of the opposite sex, a task seldom perfected in contemporary literature. The author seems to accomplish this feat through his willingness to deal in infinitely accessible language and an array of tactics designed to preserve a sense of realism such as having Kathy tell her story through clumsily structured anecdotes that often get ahead of themselves.
Within these jumbled-up passages, Kathy remembers the tender friendships that she once shared at Hailsham Academy, a live-in institution for children that housed secrets only suitable for science fiction. In fact, the novel is tailor-made for the genre on a subversive level, but Ishiguro takes the high road and omits the gory details for the sake of character development.
Moreover, this tip-of-the-iceberg style of rendering extends to the nature of the plot’s progression in Never Let Me Go as Ishiguro’s fictional landscape seems to pivot upon nearly imperceptible gestures and expressions rather than the overstated sort of dialogue that typically dictates the action in most modern fiction.
Lance Hicks is an English major at Jacksonville State University.