Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro is a writer I like. His prose is spare and minimalist yet manages to imbue drama in the plot almost effortlessly. Never Let Me Go is one of his most recent novels and like Remains of the Day, one of my personal favourites, it takes you into the mind of the narrator and leads you through the days of her life, without fuss, without melodrama.
The narrator is Kathy H. No surname, no one in the book has one and no explanation as to why it is so. Her narration is simple and seemingly normal – about her memories of her old school Hailsham and her 2 closest friends Ruth and Tommy. Except for stray words like ‘carer’, ‘donations’ and a complete lack of any reference to family, there is nothing unusual in a woman’s memories of a boarding school – the usual bullying of weaker classmates, the mindless cruelty only children are capable of and the fierce inexplicable loyalties between friends. Yet slowly, the reader begins to become aware of unusualness. You start to realize that this is no ordinary school. And the students are not your normal teenagers. The students themselves seem aware at some level of their own ‘differentness’ but as the novel unfolds, their awareness grows with that of the reader. And soon the reader begins to grasp that there is something quite horrific going on. That this is a world where humans are cloned with the express purpose of donating healthy organs to the rest of the world. And that Hailsham is a place that tries an experiment – trying to give these clones a semblance of a normal human life by burying some of the reality, blurring the truth a bit. And the central debate of the book is revealed as it moves along – is hiding reality from these children really a form of cruelty? Is it really kindness or pity that drives the founders of the school? Kathy and Tommy at the end decide that it would have been better to know. That it always is better to face the entire truth, that ignorance in the long term is not bliss.
It is quite a strange plot, not a normal everyday one. But it drags you along, curious about the triangle of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. The juxtaposition of the normal love triangle in the bizarre, almost science-fiction-like setting is quite riveting. And Kazuo Ishiguro once more has a winner on his hands.