Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

In one of the most acclaimed novels of recent year, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now thirty-one, Never Let Me Go dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

I have read this book once before, after my friends and I had been to see it at the cinema four years ago. The film was shown on TV recently so I decided to record it and reread the book before I watched it again. I had forgotten the style in which the book is written, jumping between the past and present as Kathy H. describes they key moments of her life.

The idea for the plot is an interesting one, if not very believable. The idea that clones could be made solely for the purpose of donating organs until the ‘complete’ is unsettling. I would like to think that society will never reach the point where they will produce people as objects for scientific use as I find it difficult enough to accept the fact that animals are used in the way they are.

The memories Kathy has of her younger years at Hailsham School paint a scene of an innocent and naive acceptance of the outside world.  Life at the school is isolated, with the pupils relying on one another to produce the artwork that can be swapped at ‘The Exchange’ and monthly ‘Sales’ of everyday objects from the outside world. The fact that poems written by other school children and simple second-hand items, such as an old tape, can hold such worth to a child is hard to understand unless you imagine yourself in the same situation. I find the descriptions of Hailsham make it seem strangely claustrophobic.

The children are taught the bare minimum about their future as donors, and although Tommy and Kathy together realise to some extent the abnormality and injustice of their situation, no one ever properly voices their opinions, and you feel frustrated for them that they do not make a stand against the guardians.

Without giving too many spoilers away I was disappointed with the ending. I felt that I had spent time reading something which had no resolution. Kathy and Tommy did not manage to beat the system and their quite acceptance of this fact was sad.

Never Let Me Go makes you wonder about yourself. If you were dying and offered a life-saving organ transplant from a person that had be scientifically engineered for that purpose, would you take it? I know I wouldn’t. I think that all life should be valued equally and that no one should be arrogant enough to place a higher importance on their own life than that of another, which is probably why I find the whole premise of Never Let Me Go so disturbing.

Never Let Me Go - Front Cover NLMG-Ch8.jpg NLMG-BC.jpg

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One thought on “Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. Carole Besharah says:

    Hey Alice,

    Thanks for the great review. Although this dystopian plot doesn’t seem realistic, I would disagree that the story in not ‘believable.’ Katie H.’s emotions are so raw. Her yearning for love and acceptance is so real. This is one beautiful –yet disturbing– coming of age story.

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