Never Let Me Go

 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This guy writes the most interesting books! I loved The Remains of The Day, and this one - lightyears away from that in setting, plot, and characters - is equally riveting. 

Set in a boarding school in rural England, students are being prepared for their future role in life. That role is the same for every one of them, for these are not ordinary children; they are human clones, and they are being raised for parts. They will become "donors", giving up their vital organs so that other people, "real" people,  can live better and longer lives.

The first part of the book tells of their school days. They live at the school, never leaving the grounds, their only contact with regular people being with their teachers, the delivery drivers who bring food and other necessities to the school, and Madame. Madame is the elegant, mysterious woman who comes to take away their best artwork for her ''gallery" but carefully avoids any contact with the children themselves. 

At 16 yrs old they are sent away from the school to one of several group-living situations where they work and mature until they begin their training to become "carers". For a time they will look after those who have begun their "donations" and are therefore starting to suffer declining health. They don't know how long they'll be used as carers; for some it's not long at all, for others, like Kathy, it can go on for years. But eventually every one of them will receive notice that it's time for their first donation and then they will be assigned a carer of their own. As donors, their bodies will become progressively weaker with each donation until their fourth and final donation kills them, or, in the words of the designers of the donation system, they "complete". At least donors hope that's what happens - the alternative is unthinkable. 

It sounds nightmarish, but the book is not gruesome to read. Told from the viewpoint of one student, Kathy, who seems to accept her destiny without question, it's quite matter-of-fact in it's presentation of the donor system and how it works. The feeling that something sinister is going on begins to rise on the very first page, but it stays in the background throughout. That's what makes it so quietly horrifying. Kathy recounts their childhoods, adolescence, friendships,  romantic involvements and their time as carers and then donors so pragmatically you could almost accept it as ordinary. Almost. But serious questions remain unanswered and it is the possible answers to those questions that keep the shivers running up and down your back. 

You'll question a society that could allow this to go on, and then wonder if ours would ever do the same. What is a life after all? What is a soul? What is it to be human? To be real? This brilliantly written story will not let you go, not while you're reading it and not long after you think you've finished it.  


Post a Comment