Thursday, March 17, 2022

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
9 hours 40 minutes
Read by Roslayn Lander
Published 2005 by Random House

Publisher's Summary: 

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. 

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

My Thoughts: 
I loved the movie adaptation of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day and was so happy to discover that the book was everything the movie was and more. For years I've been meaning to pick up more of his work, this one in particular, expecting much the same. I've been thinking about this book for a couple of weeks now and I'm still not sure if I got much of the same or nothing of the sort. 

Both books are an exploration of morals and a longing for the past. Both are quiet, character driven and explore personal relationships. Both are beautifully written; both explore the relationship between its main character and an institution. Both Kathi H., here, and Stevens, in Remains of the Day are carers of a sort. But whereas, The Remains of the Day is a work of historical fiction, Never Let Me Go is a work of a dystopian world. They could not have felt any more different to me. 

In Never Let Me Go we learn early on that Kathi is a "carer" for "donors," some of whom are her former classmates. Slowly Kathi takes us back to life at Hailsham, which seems like a perfectly ordinary boarding school with something of an emphasis on the arts. There are sports, cliques, teenagers becoming couples. But it doesn't take long to figure out that this is not, in fact, an ordinary boarding school. These children never seem to leave the premises. There are no visits from parents, there are no funds from home or new clothes to show off. It becomes clear that these children are being raised for a purpose.
"I can see we were just at that age when we knew a few things about ourselves -- about who we were, how we were different from our guardians, from the people outside -- but hadn't yet understood what any of it meant."

Eventually, as they transition from school to their real purpose in life, we learn what that purpose is. Which doesn't entirely come as a surprise but the truth of their existence is even uglier. As he did in The Remains of the Day, Ishiguro keeps the ugly parts of life mostly in the background. But here they are harder to hide...and harder to read. 

One reviewer said that the book has hope. I didn't see that; I felt overwhelmed by the bleakness of Kathi's life and future. This is not a book readers can relate to and these are not characters readers can relate to but every reader can feel the sadness of a life lived for the singular purpose these characters live for. Perhaps at a different time in my life I might have enjoyed such a desolate book more, might have appreciated it for its lessons about mankind. I won't give up on Ishiguro; his writing continues to impress but this was not for me - not now anyway. 


1 comment:

  1. I enjoy this author but his books are kind of sterile in feel. When I am in the mood for them I really enjoy them. I read this one twice. The first time was not a fan. The second time worked better but there was at least a decade in between the two readings.