This review was originally published May 8, 2005, in the Albany Times Union.
Kazuo Ishiguro is a master of the writing of memory. In fictions about an English butler, a Japanese artist and a world-renown pianist, he has found life-defining secrets, decisions and failures in the smallest moments, and uses them to create literary novels that read like thrillers.
His sixth novel, “Never Let Me Go” (Knopf; 282 pages; $24), includes emotionally engaging passages about friendship, love, duty, sex and betrayal in the lives of the three main characters; however, the effect is undermined by the world in which Ishiguro contains them.
The story centers on Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, whose friendship begins at Hailsham, a boarding school in the English countryside.
Kathy is reflective, passive and somewhat dreamy. She is the kind of girl who, while listening to a pop song, dances and holds a pillow, pretending it’s her baby. Ruth is bossy and likes to appear knowing; it gives her a power that attracts others to her. For example, she pretends to know more about chess than the older students, but when she shows Kathy how to play, she says all the pieces move in an L-shape. Tommy is athletic, warm-hearted and gullible, and he is mercilessly teased by his classmates. The boys enjoy setting off his uncontrollable rages, and the girls like to watch from the dorm windows.