Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is one of the saddest books I’ve read.  And yet, despite its subject matter, it is very gentle.  Only at the very end did the story flow away and leave me stranded with the pain of the narrator embedded in my own heart.

It is very difficult to write about “Never Let Me Go” without some spoilers.  I’m about to give away a plot point now because unlike many others whose reviews I’ve read, I don’t believe that this point is in fact, the core of the book, or the source of its sting.

But in case you are like me, and thoroughly allergic to any spoilers at all – I will now say goodbye :).  If you dont mind, read the rest of the review…

…good.  You are still around.  🙂

Never Let Me Go is set in an alternative version of England in the 90’s.  It is told from the point of view of Kathy, a carer who looks after the health of “donors”.  She tells us that she will soon become a donor herself.  Of course, anyone with any experience in reading Science Fiction or other dystopian novels will immediately pick up the signals.  In this society, Kathy and those like her are destined to become organ donors – to spend most of their short lives caring for one another, and then to die at the hand of doctors.

Kathy  unfolds the story of her life, reminiscing about her youth and young adulthood. She traces the roots of her awareness of her fate – which is never spelt out, by her, or anyone else until quite late in the book.  She tries to pin-point all the small and seemingly insignificant moments throughout her life, that lead to her understanding.  As we journey along with her, we share a similar experience of innocence lost.

I can imagine that for some readers this could be a tedious and “flat” book.  Kathy focuses on the small details of her life; petty arguments with friends, the glances, the gestures, the vague allusions.   For me, this is a perfect depiction of her claustrophobic existence.   And in any case, Kathy herself is worth getting to know. She is so very honest, so lacking in self-pity, so flawed, and so loving.

It was only in the last few chapters that I realised the true tragedy of this story does not lie in its questions about human rights and dignity, or our ability to accept the unacceptable.  Nor in its exposure of the arrogance of those who try to “help” those they cannot bring themselves to identify with or love.  These are all areas in which the book excels, and it makes for a very thought provoking read.

The tragedy of this book lies in a human truth that applies to all of us – a pain we all share, from which we will never heal.  And what that is, you will have to read the book to find out.

You can read another review  here, at “Things Mean a Lot” .

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gavin
    Feb 22, 2010 @ 02:07:46

    Great review, Masha. This is the book that got me into Ishiguro, I just love the way he writes.

  2. mashadutoit
    Feb 22, 2010 @ 07:49:09

    Hi G, thanks for the comment. I agree. He makes it seem so simple and straightforward. Respect! 🙂

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