"Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro

No comments
Kazuo Ishiguro’s imagination lives in a world all its own. He beguiles his readers in rich and confounding ways, with tricks too outré. In Never Let Me Go he lays out for our edification the lives of three children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. Something is off fairly immediately with these young ones: they spend their days at a boarding school called Hailsham, and we learn nothing of their parents.

At first I expected to see them described, hear them speak, but no. The children age from early elementary school age up on up through their teen years, and the school is their only home. And we begin to hear about “donations,” and school guardians, whom I took to be their teachers, who behave strangely, speaking in riddles and having tearful episodes that seem full of regret. Regret and a certain amount of fear also apparently plague the guardians. So what’s all this add up to? It is well you should ask.

The children themselves appear more normal than normal. The young girls, on whom the story focuses, establish cliques, within which hierarchies rule. Kathy belongs to Ruth’s group, which Ruth rules cunningly; Ruth’s occasional openness and charity toward Kathy strings her along until the ultimate honest moment, in which Ruth finally admits to past transgressions. What she has done stuns Kathy and us, and her motivation for it only lightly touched upon.

The point of dwelling so long on childhood intrigues and teenage rivalries? Mr. Ishiguro wants to leave no doubt as to the full humanness of his subjects. For in his fictional reality these youngsters have no actual parents, other than someone on whose genetic code each of the young people was modeled. The word “clone” does not appear in the book, but these young people are genetic copies who exist only for the grisly purpose of providing healthy tissue to the rest of the population.  He wants to highlight the tragedy of human lives lived only as incubators. It’s so callous, that when a donor finally dies after going under the knife and donating organs three or four times, they call it “completing.”

So the author shows us a horrifying reality from within the victims’ viewpoint, and makes certain to imbue his unfortunates with all-too-real human nature. This book bears the unmistakable Ishiguro stamp of blinkered humanity, and the chilling consequences of single-minded pursuit of ends that never justify the means. As with other Ishiguro works, the author’s conception vies with his execution for aesthetic supremacy; I’m very happy to call it even and recommend this book without reservation. It’s haunting, elegant, cautionary, and masterful.