Never Let Me Go | Kazuo Ishiguro

July 8, 2010

2005

After having seen the trailer to “Never Let Me Go,” an upcoming English film based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, I told myself I had to read the novel.  I would love to see the film; but since it isn’t out yet, I settled for reading the novel.  And books are more often better than the movies upon which they’re based.

Sometimes, it is not good to embark on a novel with presuppositions.  And I definitely did.

Spoilers to follow.

I would like to preface this review by stating that I was under the assumption this novel had more science fiction in it than it actually did.  Now, looking back, I realize that it was obviously my own mistake.  I have read other Ishiguro novels… and he doesn’t strike me as science fiction-y at all.

The simplified plot of Never Let Me Go follows the life of Kathy, a “carer” having grown up in a boarding house.  Kathy, and all the other students there, were designed to be donors, having been genetically cloned, something akin to the movie “The Island.”  Throughout the progression of the novel, Kathy and the other students are gradually made aware of the purpose behind their creation.  I like the idea of cloning, and the psychology behind raising and rearing organ donors.  The students do not rise up against the establishment; they weren’t raised with the knowledge that what is happening is wrong.

This novel is significantly different from all the other novels I have read for fun.  Most of the novels I read have twists, challenges, and secrets that are unveiled at the end.  However, Never Let Me Go hides nothing from the reader.  The premise of the novel, the students being organ donors, is only gradually unveiled; so it could be argued that it is the novel’s secret.  But it is no twist.  There is no surprise.  The reader can determine from Kathy’s inner dialog and her interactions with the other characters that something is amiss.  And when it is revealed, we have by then pieced it together ourselves.  Even when Madame and Miss Emily, at the end, tell Kathy and Tommy that their donations cannot be deferred, we are not surprised.  The tone of the entire novel follows a melancholy that never recedes.  And even though I could expect the outcome, I was still intrigued.

I thought I wouldn’t like this novel because of it’s slow progression and lack of action.  However, it was very fluid and well-written.  Kathy’s inner turmoil with her life as a donor and a carer is a unique struggle to write about.

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