Friday, March 10, 2006

"the tears ran down my face" - Never Let Me Go

"the tears ran down my face" - Never Let Me Go

Six years ago I was instructed to buy a copy of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. It was one of our set texts at A Level and when I started reading it I was surprised at what an odd little book it seemed. Here was a novel written from the point of view of someone who thought it wise to go on for countless pages about polishing silver. There were already grumbles coming from my cohorts in the classroom about the nature of the book and its general alien status to a group of 17 year olds at a school in the middle of Leeds.

But something about the book had captured my attention. I'm not exactly sure what it was but something compelled me to read it. And when I'd finished I read it again. And again. Reading it was to know that here I'd just found one of those books that would have a hold on my imagination for the rest of my life. Because - and there is no other word for it - The Remains of the Day is a beautiful novel. It's elegaic, gently amusing and quietly heart breaking and as is so often in my favourite novels it is the unsaid which matters. It's all about the reader infering, seeing the shades beneath the words, detecting the real story. And there's something about it that is painfully, indefinably human.

After reading The Remains of the Day I've held up Ishiguro as being possibly my favourite living novelist. None of his other books has come - for me at least - quite up to the power which that original read did, but then none of Fitzgerald's novels comes as close to me as the Great Gatsby does either. But I was excited about the release of When We Were Orphans and I've been waiting with something bordering on indecency for the paperback version* of Never Let Me Go as I'd heard very, very good things about it.

And, finally, when I got my copy this week I discovered that the wait had been entirely worth it. Because it did to me exactly what The Remains of the Day had all those years ago. It left me awed. It also left me a sobbing wreck because of how acutely painful - and heartbreaking - it turned out to be. And it was that ever present watch word of mine - beautiful. It was so beautiful that it actually hurts. And I can't - and suspect that I never will be able to - get the final images of the novel out of my mind.

Ishiguro - thank you.

*Possibly as a remnant of being a student I never buy hard backs. Even for Ishiguro.


Claire said...

I read Remains of the Day on the back of seeing the film way back in...1993 was it? Anthony Hopkins I bow down to you, I am not worthy etc.
The book was wonderful. And I've read it many times over. Have yet to venture into any of his other books but on the review you've given perhaps now is the time.

Corinne said...

If you loved Remains of the Day (I love how Merchant Ivory did the ending of the film btw!) then you should definitely read Never Let Me Go - it's all about memory and love and loss, and the narrator ultimately has quite a few things in common with Stevens.