A Book Review sans Spoilers: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize and the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go follows the story of narrator, Kathy, who spent her childhood in a secluded boarding school named Hailsham. Kathy’s childhood memories are pleasant but mysterious, full of unanswered questions, even for her. Students at Hailsham grew up isolated, keeping little contact with the world beyond their school. The teachers, known as guardians, placed emphasis on creativity and the students’ ability to produce artwork, paintings, and poems. As Kathy recounts her experiences and memories at Hailsham, she hopes to reveal the true purpose of the school and why the students’ artwork was so important. Years later, Kathy reconnects with her two closest friends from Hailsham, Ruth and Tommy. As the book progresses, Kathy strengthens her relationships with her friends while working to uncover her past at Hailsham.
Never Let Me Go thoughtfully connects Kathy’s memories to her later realizations. Ishiguro’s writing is fragmented, but also absorbing and suspenseful.The author has mastered the narrator’s voice, which grips the reader from beginning to end. Kathy’s narration is honest and sensitive, as if she is inviting the reader to sympathize with all of the characters, even when she is frustrated or puzzled by a certain character’s actions.
Though classified as science fiction, Never Let Me Go is, in fact, representative of many real-life issues and moral dilemmas. The novel explores how our senses of identity are formed by our culture and by the ideas instilled in us from a young age. The dystopian novel takes place in a society where unethical ideas are widely accepted, and thus, the characters conform to these standards without challenging or questioning them, perpetuating a world wholly dismissive of individuals viewed as inferior or unimportant.
Although none of the plot events in the novel are particularly surprising, the story is centered around Kathy’s friendships with Ruth and Tommy. Despite the many quarrels and conflicts plaguing both relationships, Kathy’s bonds with her friends remain unbreakable. When the context of Hailsham is revealed, it is this portrait of friendship and its humanity in the face of the truth that makes the book haunting.