Book Review by Ms. Iagaru: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go is a dystopian, science-fiction novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. The story is set in a future, which at first, seems very similar to our own time, and is told from the perspective of Kathy, a carer. Kathy prattles freely and reflects on how she became a carer, her time at a school called Hailsham, her turbulent friendships with Tommy and Ruth, and ultimately the discovery of love, loss, and illusion. Critical to the narrative is Kathy’s conversational tone.
Speaking to the reader, as if we were friends, she starts, stops, repeats, wanders, and stumbles forward in the narrative. While her tone waffles between whimsical and naïve, each chapter more clearly signals to the reader that there is something different about Kathy and the world she is describing; moreover, that there is so much that Kathy, herself, does not understand about her role in society.
During her time at Hailsham, Kathy befriends Tommy, a misfit with a tendency toward temper-tantrums. She describes her growth into adolescence and the development of her relationship with Tommy, which is complicated by his romance with her friend, Ruth. The three slowly discover all the ways in which they, and all of the students at Hailsham, are not like everyone else. They will never have jobs, start families, or even grow old before society finds different uses for them.
Ishiguro’s style mirrors other contemporary British writers as he toys with the reader’s notions of how a plot might rise in the middle and fall at the end. This one doesn’t. This plot line looks more like a hospital EKG: subtle peaks bump along, occasionally flat lining—uh- oh—then return to a rhythm, coaxing the reader to continue following along until there is one great revelatory peak before the end. The story ends in a heartbeat and we are faced with the sudden truth in the final moments of the text.
This novel presents an interesting outlook on the future of medicine and ethics in our world and calls us to question the meaning of living in a world that doesn’t value every life equally. This is perhaps more relevant than ever considering the recent direction of our politics, the norm of police brutality, and the normality of terror in general and on a daily basis. Perhaps we too, like the society we discover in Kathy’s story, find it easier to take what we want from people when we no longer think of them as people.