Throwback Thursday: Josephine's Book Edition


Today is making me happy because Twitter and Facebook and the streets I drive down to get to my office have all been full of small children dressed up as their favourite character from a book and I just think that’s kind of excellent. There’s a lot of Roald Dahl around this year, which is excellent and I saw the cutest Mad Hatter this morning, God. The son of a friend of mine has dressed up as Mr Rush and he looks excellent. I’m just loving it a whole lot.

In addition to WBD, this week also seems like Ishiguro week, don’t you think? I get that, that’s a bandwagon I am well and truly on because I have been excited about Ishiguro’s new book The Buried Giant (which was released on Tuesday) for the longest time. Seriously, so excited. SO EXCITED. I also have a copy because my boyfriend is excellent and knows that whilst the way to his heart is for defs through his stomach, the way to mine is through books.

So, let’s Throwback this Thursday shall we? It seems obvious this week, in light of the publication of The Buried Giant to talk about Ishiguro, and if I’m going to talk about Ishiguro then obviously I’m going to talk about Never Let Me Go because that book guys and gals, that freaking book.

Never Let Me Go wasn’t the first of Ishiguro’s that I read – that was When We Were Orphans - ­ ­but it’s absolutely my favourite. In fact, I think I’d even go so far as to say it owns a spot on my list of Top Ten Books of All Time, I loved it that much. It’s also been adapted into a really excellent film – although Ian would tell you differently ‘it’s so fucking bleak Jo, what is wrong with you?’  Which, yep, it is kind of bleak. It’s also kind of amazing. It's the best thing and it's the worst thing and just, it will make you feel all the things. It will.

I first read Never Let Me Go in 2011. It kind of blew my mind, the beauty of it, the careful execution, the use of language, all of it, it just left me sat there once I’d finished it unable to think anything other than ‘wow.’

I try not to use the word ‘perfect’ too often, but I kind of feel a little bit like it wouldn’t be out of place to use it here: I can’t think of a single thing wrong with that book, not one.

It’s so damn clever and so damn good, the charcterisation is spot on, the story is told at just the right pace and in just the right voice, and in the way things are held back and slowly revealed just right when kind of makes you feel like Ishiguro is playing with you a little bit. (Such a tease that guy, I love him.) & it makes you feel, and by ‘feel’ I mean it throws you head first in to a kind of almost suffocating pit of despair.  Yep, this book hurts in the hurtiest of ways.

It’s kind of billed as sci-fi, which, if you’re desperate to box it then science fiction is a label that fits I guess, but more than that its kind of a study of human nature, of ethics and morals and the choices we make. There’s a lot here that will make you think, that will make you look closely at the world as it is today, that will make you study your own self and there’s a really insightful look at love and at loss and at betrayal and forgiveness. Also you know that old adage of ‘show don’t tell’ that I have talked about a lot of times (I did an OU course in creative writing, it stems from that) well, this book is a masterclass in that and it’s so subtle all of the time, so subtle but so powerful. It’s pretty mesmerising actually and once you start it, well you just can’t stop. There’ll be no eating, sleeping, living your actual life for a while, so you know, be prepared for that.

I’m aware there are probably people out there that haven’t read it, which makes me reluctant to write too spoilery a post because, for me at least, a lot of the wonder of this book comes from the not-knowing much more than you get from the blurb. 

Part of the beauty of the whole thing comes from Ishiguro’s slow unravelling, from the things you come to learn as you get deeper and deeper in, that hit you like a smack to the chest and leave you gasping. If I tell you what those things are now, then you’ll likely lose some of that magic. Pretty much all you need to know, really, is that this book is haunting and achingly achingly sad and incredibly beautiful and that it will stay with you, I think, for a long long time. And really, if you haven’t read it then you absolutely should. You should.

I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart. That's how it is with us. It's a shame, Kath, because we've loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can't stay together forever