Movies based on good books, even when they are themselves good, are never more than shadows of the original work.
I bought and downloaded the Kindle version of Never Let Me Go, and read it over the weekend, finishing it Tuesday morning. My reaction was even stronger than to the movie. I put the book down in a virtual sense (eBook remember) and said to no one, but intended for Ishiguro, “Fuck you.” I meant it. I felt it. The thing is, despite the words, it was praise.
Life changing books are rare these days. The last one I can think of was StarStruck, mentioned in a previous blog, and a very different sort of experience.
A life changing book, or a life changing anything, is personal: the effect is outside the realms of review or criticism. I read a one star review of Never Let Me Go on Goodreads. The reviewer was perfectly reasonable in explaining why the book meant nothing to him. I understood why, for him, this was true. For me it was exactly the oposite. I was devastated, first by the movie, then more so by the book. Ishiguro’s telling of the story through his main character is expressed in an honest, unassuming voice, but it left me an emotional jumble. I fell in love with the main characters, yet after finishing, I hated the author for creating them, and then trapping them in his story. How could he do that? How could they let him?
It’s been a few days now. Although I’m not in a rush, I’m beginning to understand something of my reaction to this story: I suspect it has to do with Never Let Me Go invoking the feeling that, as your life stretches out, it gets thin. The people you’ve grown up with in all those complicated give and take relationships that cannot be summed up simply as love begin dropping out of existence—becoming frozen in cherished memories. “Completed” as the book says. You can’t be alive and complete.