If you haven’t read anything by Kazuo Ishiguro, do so immediately. As in, right now. Doesn’t matter if you’re at work or meant to be studying or doing the dishes, here is the perfect excuse, handed to you on a platter, to go out and READ.
Seriously. This is by far the best book I’ve read in about a year. I loved Never Let Me Go – and even though I’ve seen the film, Ishiguro’s writing is so good that I was blown away all over again.
Set in a dystopian parallel universe in the 1990s, Never Let Me Go, is told from the perspective of Kathy, a student at the prestigious, if peculiar, boarding school, Hailsham. Kathy develops a close, yet complicated, relationship with fellow boarders Ruth and Tommy.
It quickly becomes obvious that Hailsham is different from other schools – the ‘guardians’ teach them little to no life skills, but rather the students focus on producing art; the students never return home in the holidays; and the guardians are adamant that they stay as healthy as possible. As Never Let Me Go progresses, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy begin adulthood together and eventually set out on the path that has been predestined for them.
There’s a lot I could give away about Never Let Me Go and while I would love to avoid all spoilers, there is one that needs to be discussed, as it’s the central plot of the novel. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are clones – and they have been created so that once they reach a certain age, usually mid-twenties, they begin ‘donating’ until they eventually pass away. Ishiguro keeps the ‘donations’ deliberately vague, but the overall impression is that they have to keep donating organs until they die.
The way that Ishiguro has positioned Never Let Me Go is frankly brilliant. First, he creates a dystopian reality that is not set in the future, but rather the near-past – as though this is a reality that most of us could live with. Second, he creates an atmosphere that, while not dramatic, draws in the reader until the final page. Third, without coming across as a martyr, Ishiguro makes us question how far we would go for the sake of our health.
Never Let Me Go is a tragic story. While I didn’t cry, I was filled with that awful gut-wrenching filling that stays with you for days, even after I had finished. The premise of the story, which I won’t go into, is so harrowing that not only did it make me feel for the characters, but it also made me wonder where the line of ethics should be drawn.
Part of Ishiguro’s brilliance is that he is a master of the basic rule of storytelling: show, don’t tell. By that I mean he presents what is happening, but it is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions from the scene that they’re reading. As a result, Never Let Me Go is both plausible yet distinctly vague: it makes you ask questions. Why are Kathy and all the other clones so resigned to their fate? How are students at other schools treated? And most pressing: although they are clones, what makes Kathy different from the rest of us?
Read Never Let Me Go. Or anything by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is an author who spends years writing a book, wins a truckload of awards every time a new one is released, and most importantly, creates a lasting impression on the reader.
Have you read Never Let Me Go or seen the film? Are you a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro? Let me know!