Never Let Me Go...

I confess, I do not read enough. Ever since college, when I became massively burned out on literature and academic fare alike, I just haven't been able to relocate the hunger for books that I once had. I don't think it helps that I spend much of my days at work sifting through old newspaper articles; by the time I get home I'd much rather veg out in front of the television or even commit words to the page (or screen) than pick up a novel. In truth, I am lucky to read one or two books a year, and only that many because I like to take a book along to read on long flights. This year, despite several false starts, I haven't managed to finish a single book and it's nearly November. It's sad, and a little shameful.

When I can find the energy, however, I do enjoy reading, and one of the best novels I've picked up in recent years was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. The novel tells the story of a dystopian future in which nearly all illnesses can be cured by organ transplants, but to supply the demand for organs, an underclass of cloned humans has been bred specifically to be kept alive as their organs are harvested a few at a time until they eventually "complete" their donations. Ishiguro explores the impact of this life on a trio of young "donors," tracing their lives from a special boarding school where the clones are isolated from a society that both fears them and prefers to pretend they don't exist, to their brief adult lives. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are involved in a love triangle fraught with jealousy and spite, but ultimately each finds a way to make peace with the brevity of their existence. I found the original novel to be hauntingly tragic, but also incredibly suspenseful, as Ishiguro never explicitly explains the nature of the organ donation process and his character's doomed fate. Instead, the reader must piece together the details for himself in a format that, for me, almost echoed a mystery novel.

I enjoyed the book so much, in fact, that I received the news that it was to be turned into a movie with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Film adaptations of novels seldom capture the true essence of what made the original great, but it can still be fascinating and entertaining to see one interpretation of how the characters can be brought to life. Hence, when Never Let Me Go , starring Carey Mulligan and KeiraKnightley was given a limited release this month to make it eligible for the Oscars, I made a point of making it out to see it.

The story's science fiction overtones helped me persuade Lisa to accompany me on my outing, and I think her inexperience with the novel is illustrative of my point about film adaptations of books: I thought the film was a decent reflection of the plot portrayed in the book, but I felt it lacked the suspense that Ishiguro was able to impose through his ambiguous writing, and that the characters were more two-dimensional when I wasn't using my own imagination to fashion them in my mind. On the other hand, without having the book as a point of comparison, Lisa greatly enjoyed the film, felt invested in the characters, and was moved by their ability to make the most of the time they were given. I think she might have an excellent point there -- it wasn't that the movie was bad, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the cinematography was quite lovely. For me, it just couldn't hold up to the source material.

I would recommend the novel to you before the film, but if you are like me, and can't find the motivation to read, then I would suggest you seek out Never Let Me Go in theaters if it is nominated for an Academy Award and receives a wider U.S. release. At the very least, it is definitely a story worth experiencing.

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