I have come late to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. It’s something I seem to do, that. Only read wonderful things years and years after every bugger else (I think a lot of that has to do with me not reading enough as much as I’d like and reading a lot of possibly more obscure things – not an excuse, it’s just how it is).
But I did come to it in the end and I am glad I did. It is an astonishing book and one that, without question, has changed me. And it’s been a while since I’ve read anything close to being that good. It’s a masterpiece. The story’s wonderful and affecting and the characters are convincing and everything works.
But what I wanted to highlight here is how good I think the writing is. I said, on Twitter, upon finishing it that I thought it was probably the best written book I’d read. And I stand by that.
I’ll not review it here (I’ve never been that good with reviews and so many people do it better) so you’ll have to look elsewhere for the plot (if you’ve been stuck under a rock like me and not read it yet). It’s the language Ishiguro uses. The way (and I talk about this a lot when I’m teaching) he doesn’t let a huge vocabulary – or desire to use it – to get in the way of either the story or the authenticity of the narrator’s voice. Yes, the language is simple (some have said dull) but that’s exactly how it needs to be. For me, it’s all about story. When we read something I don’t think we really need to notice the writer – in fact I’d probably argue that, in most cases, we shouldn’t because it’s the story we should be immersed in, not the writer or their ego. Sometimes people do just sit or walk or say things. And sometimes there are just fields – we don’t need to know the exact shade of green every blade of grass is beneath the oak. Of course, there are times when that kind of thing is a joy to read – but only if that language is appropriate to that story.
So, if you’ve not read it, you should. So here’s a toast to brilliant story telling without the need to show off and, more importantly, with the master’s touch of knowing exactly how his or her character is. Language is a wonderful thing and we’ve got an enormous, brilliant, beautiful pot of it that we can pluck from – it’s a fine thing we can be reminded that we don’t have to use it all.