I bought Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go a few weeks ago and finally started reading it two days ago, and was not able or willing to put it down for anything less than much needed sleep at 4:30 in the morning. I am not a literary critic, but I’ll do my best and at the very least try and get my thoughts across.
I don’t exactly remember why I decided that I wanted to read this book, only that it was a while ago. I was actually a little unsure at first because I did not like Ishiguro’s other book, ‘When We Were Orphans’. Somehow despite that I bought the book after my birthday so that I would actually get around to reading it. I try to always read the book before watching the film adaptation, so that might have been what pushed me to buy it in the first place, and I’m glad I did.
The novel is narrated in a first person perspective by Kathy H. as she remembers her childhood and adolescence at Hailsham along with Tommy D. and Ruth. As the story progresses we are introduced to the fact that Hailsham is intended as a place to raise clones made for organ harvesting, and that Kathy and her friends exist just to become donors when they are in their twenties. The story is told in three parts, divided into their childhood at Hailsham, their adolescence at the Cottages and their time as donors when they are adults, and touches upon themes of what it means to be human and humane. It also tells the story of love, jealousy, hope and friendship between the three friends as they grow up knowing what they are and why they are there.
What I love about the book is that unlike a story like in the movie ‘The Island’ where the main characters try to fight their future as organ donors, it’s the story of people trying to come to terms with the reality of their existence, to gain more time, and discovering how the world sees them. Throughout most of the story I never felt like Kathy wanted to change her eventual fate of becoming a donor, and the only time the novel depicts real anger towards the situation is when Tommy has his outburst after learning that their hope of a deferral (a theory that is introduced to them by a friend some way into the story) is gone. They are all content with having the purpose they have, but not in agreement of how this was kept from them for a long time when they were young.
I also think it’s nice to have a story which in nature is based in science fiction but appears like a period drama about a group of friends. It is in many ways is a shame that it’s being categorised as a science fiction novel when the overall feel of the story is one of how we as humans are not defined by being born from parents but by who we are as people and who the people we surround ourselves with are.
The last thing I want to mention is that I think the relationships are handled really well in this story. The bond between Kathy and Tommy is established really early on, as is the at times strenuous friendship between Ruth and Kathy. The bond between Tommy and Kathy is kept subtle and it’s not until Ruth herself confronts it in the last part of the book that the reader fully realizes how much time they lost that they could have spent together. More than anything though, I liked that there were never any wish expressed by either Kathy or Tommy to be together and leave Ruth on the outside, at least not consciously, not even when Ruth and Tommy were broken up at one point. Their friendship always came first.
I could probably go on for a long time about every little detail in the story, but I will restrain myself and end by saying that it is a book I recommend to everyone. It is not at all a book about a love triangle full of sappy moments, but a much deeper story about defining human emotions.