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Last Updated: Monday, 21 February, 2005, 15:35 GMT
Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro's book 'Never Let Me Go'
Kazuo Ishiguro's book is about children living in a parallel universe

Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel in five years trails a sinister force lurking behind the recollection of three seemingly idyllic childhoods, involving genetic cloning and organ donation.

(Please note this transcript of the panel's review is taken from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight Review.)

MARK LAWSON:

Rosie, it is the first time he has taken on a headline issue in a novel. Is it good news?

ROSIE BOYCOTT:

No. I wanted to try to like this. On the plus side, it keeps you turning the pages. This curious story about the group of children who are living in an apparently parallel universe to the one we inhabit, but after that, all connection with reality as we know it, like television programmes or politics or what is going on collapses and you could say that this was incredibly pure fiction. I suppose to some people he thinks that is the way to do it. I thought it failed because its sinisterness and weirdness was lost on me.

TONY PARSONS:

It was in context. I hate criticising the same writer twice because I think it brings home to me the cheapness and nastiness of being a critic. But that said, I can't lie, I thought it was feeble beyond belief. I had great expectations for it. People were talking about it in terms of the Booker Prize but I am sure the dumb journalists have not read the book. I think the main flaw in it is it's a book about the humanity of these people. It is headline stuff. It is a great story. It is fantastic material. But it is about using these poor children as organ donors, yet their humanity never comes alive. They don't feel like flesh and blood characters and real people. The story has a great hole in it. I kept thinking: Why don't they leg it and run away?

BOYCOTT:

People were always trying to escape.

PARSONS:

Trying to run away from fate and destiny, they meekly passively accept it. The Blade Runner moment at the end of the book where they meet their maker, when they meet their God, it is so clunky and so weak.

LAWSON:

There is disappointment so far on the sofa. But this is man who won the Booker prize. So what has gone wrong?

IAN MCMILLAN:

I feel like the man who offers Jamie some turkey burgers. I liked the narrator where she said: This happened. I remember now that happened three days ago. Is that Kazuo Ishiguro using his skill to do that? The fact it keeps happening. I think that Ishiguro piles it up by telling us more and more about it. That is why the world is so two dimensional.

PARSONS:

Why don't they leg it?

BOYCOTT:

Where is God in all of it?

MCMILLAN:

I think he has created an artless narrator.

PAUL MORLEY:

Describing things is easy if you have the time and the leisure.

BOYCOTT:

Did you care about them?

MCMILLAN:

Because of the way she's a woman and a girl who is going through terrific things and yet can't write about them with any passion.

BOYCOTT:

When they get into Norfolk where you find they enter this shop...

PARSONS:
Revelation seeps out. Your heart should be breaking at the end of the book.

MCMILLAN:

Mine was.

BOYCOTT:

I was relieved.

LAWSON:

There is a good employment where they discuss the souls which I thought was moving.

PARSONS:

You need to think about that stuff. It is not something a serious novel which this obviously wants to be, can just casually ride over. You don't believe in...

BOYCOTT:

It has no time and space.


Newsnight Review, BBC Two's weekly cultural round-up, is broadcast after Newsnight every Friday at 11pm.

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