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July 18, 2006

Never Let Me Go: JKM 1

Interesting that you should begin your post with the Kermode quote, because what I was most attentive to while reading Chapter 1 for the second time (which I did before reading your post) is Kathy's voice, something I paid little attention to the first time around, being focused primarily on 'where is this story going?'. Kathy H is intelligent, perceptive and imperturbable, but most horrifying to me (now that I'm re-reading the book and know 'the story') is the note of resignation I detected in her voice, both as to what has gone before and what lies ahead (an issue that I'm sure will be a topic for further discussion as this reading continues). I agree that the narrative tone is completely appropriate to the character of Kathy H and rather than making the novel uninteresting, makes it more interesting (particularly as the story unfolds).

A thought that has nothing to do with the book, per se (so feel free to edit this out when you post my comment): after re-reading Chapter 1 and reading your post, I decided to peruse whatever reviews of the book I could still find on-line (something that I previously avoided after one of the two reviews I did see before reading the book should have been accompanied by a 'spoiler alert'). The very first review I saw (which I re-visited) was Peter Kemp's piece in the on-line edition of the London Times (February 20, 2005), which, without giving away much of the plot, succeeded in persuading me to order the book immediately. Jonathan Yardley's review in the Washington Post (April 17,2005) took the same approach ("Believing as I strongly do that readers must be allowed to discover a book's secrets for themselves, guided by the author's hand, rather than have those secrets gratuitously spilled by a reviewer, I shall err on the side of silence, so please bear with me."). In contrast, several other critics elected to provide a 'book report,' which gave away 'the secret' in a manner that, in my opinion, mischaracterized what the book is really about. Although a discussion of the role of the literary critic is probably not relevant to this thread, it is a subject on which I would like to hear others' views, particularly with respect to books that, like Never Let Me Go, are susceptible to summarization in a potentially misleading fashion. Are there readers, I wonder, who elected to forego Never Let Me Go because it was described by a critic as essentially a science fiction novel?

Posted by pourover at July 18, 2006 10:36 PM

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