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5 January 2014

Dystopian novels and how titles can be misleading

Never let me go
Kazuo Ishiguro
Faber and Faber
Publication Date
01 January 2005 

Over the holidays, I came across the movie Never let me go, starring Keira Knightly. It somehow rang a bell with me… yes, of course, the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, published in 2005. I know that the book was very successful and there was a buzz about it at the time. But because of the title, I assumed it is a soppy romantic story, possibly incl a twist where the main character gets an incurable disease i.e. Love Story. You know the type. Well, of course, I was quite wrong. I have to say that I didn’t read any reviews of it at the time and just assumed ‘not for me’.

What a fantastic story and plot! No soppy romance here. Kathy, who is in her mid-twenties, tells her life story so far, including growing up in a boarding school. The realisation of what the boarding school and, in fact, what her whole life is about send shivers down my spine.  I just wish I had read the book first. Having seen film, of course now I know what the story is all about, which otherwise would have been revealed to me slowly in the book. I would have loved that. 

The book comes under the genre of ‘Dystopian’. What are dystopian novels? According to Wiki, they ‘describe the creation of an utterly horrible or degraded society'  and are linked to ‘Utopian novels’ or the Science Fiction genre. In the case of Never let me go, it talks about our world /time , but one which developed in a different way from the one we know. Other examples of dystopian books include 1984, Clockwork Orange and The Hunger Games.  I'm not sure if I would always subscribe to the fact that all dystopian societies (as described in literature) are 'horrible'. They are just different and who can say what should be a right or wrong society?