Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Published August 2010
Our narrator Kathy remembers her childhood at Hailsham boarding school; memories that seem, in retrospect, suspect.
We meet Kathy in her current adult life, where she works as a carer for organ donors.
Through the book, she remembers her childhood at Hailsham, a boarding school where the children don’t have families waiting for them back at home because there is no other home; they never leave. Through recollections of her time at the school, she reveals increasingly strange details of a place that is far from normal.
Not only are they not allowed to smoke, they’re sheltered from any reference to cigarette use. Any pictures, books, or references to cigarettes are censored.
None of them can have babies.
They don’t have any contact with the outside world.
A strange importance is placed on their creative works.
The more we learn, the more confused we become.
And then, one of the teachers tells the kids exactly what they are there for.
And somehow, they don’t seem very upset about it. It’s just a fact of life.
The students think idly about getting away from it all, but as a distant dream that may never come true and is a little silly to wish for. Their thoughts of “maybe one day I’ll get out of this” are akin to little girls thinking they might grow up and marry Prince Charming.
The people of Never Let Me Go exist in the minutiae.
Their attention to seemingly insignificant events is strange at first. They deal with Ruth’s pencil box as if it were a dirty secret. Conversations are mulled over and dissected ad nauseam. Meaning is put into every gesture, facial expression, movement.
But what else do they have, but each other? They live in an encapsulated world. There are no future plans to work toward.
Never Let Me Go is an interesting look at what could be called a dystopian sub-society. Some books spend the plot creating a setting. They explain the intricate rules and fashion and leaders and origin of this world.
This book doesn’t. Not much, anyway. The entire plot resides within the microcosm of these characters, their seemingly trivial inner thoughts and inane conversations with each other.
Through these small details, we see glimpses of the huge world behind them. Certainly full of faults and drama, but not really existing for the group of characters we follow.
It’s just so sad, the sum of it all. Whereas some people cling to life because of their great loves, these people cling to love (or some play-acting semblance of it) because they think it might give them a chance for life.