Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
Never Let Me Go is the story of three characters who grew up together in a school in the English countryside. While the era in which the book is set is unclear, presumably it is either the future, or an alternative idea of modern-day. This boarding school is home to a special group of ‘students’ and the story of their schooldays and future is slowly told through one of these students, Kathy.
The plot is captivating and is slowly revealed over the course of the book – slowly enough to keep you guessing, but not so slowly as to make it confusing. In many ways, this book reminded me a lot of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, although it is difficult to discuss that further without spoilers. It is an intriguing story that raises certain questions. While the students understand what is expected of them, the details of the situation are kept from them. When these details are revealed later in the book, the question is raised as to whether sometimes it is better not to know the whole truth. As somewhat of a control-freak myself, I like to be well-informed, regardless of the nature of that information, so I can be prepared. However, the argument here is that had these students known the whole truth regarding their lives and their fate, their perspective would have changed, and their happy memories may not have existed. I thought this was fascinating and an interesting discussion point in the book. I guess it’s the same question that the advance in genetics is bringing to the forefront: would you like to know how or when you are going to die? If you knew you were going to die at a certain time or in a certain way, wouldn’t that change your life dramatically, and potentially detrimentally. I think ignorance sometimes is bliss.
The plot is excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story is written in the first person singular, and there were times when the prose got in the way of the story for me. The narrative is in an informal, conversational, almost confiding, style but there was occasionally some slopping linking, e.g. “But that’s not really what I want to talk about now…” or “All this about Miss Geraldine reminds me of something that happened about 3 years later…”. I think the informality of these sentences stood out for me against the rest of the writing, and interrupted my reading. I haven’t read many stories written in the first person singular so maybe I just don’t like this style. Anyway, it’s a minor point and does not detract from my recommendation that you should read this book.
This is my first book by Ishiguro, but I don’t think it will be my last. I have several other books of his on my TBR list (Remains of the Day, The Unconsoled, An Artisit of the Floating World, A Pale View of the Hills). Any recommendations?
4 stars out of 5.