"Never Let Me Go"
(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer JUN 12, 2005)
Kathy has finally come to the end of her time as a "carer," a job that calls for her to look after people who are "donors." As she finishes up her tenure, she looks back on her life at Hailsham, the school she was brought up at. There, beautiful boys and girls are raised to believe that they have a special destiny; that what happens to them, if they don’t take care of themselves properly, if they get sick, has a great consequence on the world. She thinks of her best friend, Ruth, and the man we realize that she must have loved a great deal, Tommy.
As the book unrolls we see an idyllic life. The children...and then young adults...are very normal. They have the same arguments, the same hopes, the same desires and curiosities as you would expect, but there is an innocence to the picture. No one is truly vile...though they certainly have their faults. Ruth lies to make herself more important, Tommy has a terrible temper that he has to learn to control. It’s all perfectly normal and quite happy, except throughout the book, there are hints to something darker. Why can’t any of the children have children of their own? Why is smoking a greater sin than anything else? Why is their art work, their very best pieces, at least, taken away, and creativity, making things, so very important? There are also hints...the children wonder who they were modeled after; other things are mentioned in passing, darker things.
As we learn the answers to these questions, the purpose these children serve, we get to the main themes, the main points that Ishiguro is trying to make with his book. It becomes seriously scary and disheartening, especially since it never becomes some startling, huge revelation. It’s all subtle, step by step, and when things are confessed it is so off hand, almost mundane. None of this is a big surprise to the characters, it’s their life. It’s horrid, and terrible, but they don't see it that way; it’s their reality.
We also start to see Kathy's role in a new light. When we first read what she does, the words don’t quite jive, but we assume that there's a reason and put it aside. As we learn what that reason is, we feel a great deal of empathy for her. It also adds a tinge to the memories she reveals to us, of her meetings with Ruth when she acts as her carer. We soon realize that she talks very little about her present life. It’s not important; it doesn't give us a context about who she is because she’s not about that. She’s about clinging to the past, because it’s all she really has.
In the end, revelations or not, it’s a book about the importance of our memories. It gives the title of the book more poignancy. It’s based off of an old song from a tape she finds, a song that was so important to her but for reasons you’d not expect. But it’s not about the words of the song, or the meaning...it’s about this. Ruth, Tommy, the others who have completed their time, they have left nothing behind, except Ruth. And she will never let them go.
- Amazon readers rating: from 958 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Never Let Me Go at RandomHouse.com
Editor's Note: Be careful surfing around the net or even on Amazon.com as there are many spoilers out there. Cindy has done a very careful job of enticing us to read this book without giving away the story.
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- A Pale View of Hills (1982)
- An Artist of the Floating World (1986)
- The Remains of the Day (1989)
- The Unconsoled (1995)
- When We Were Orphans (2000)
- Never Let Me Go (2005)
- Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009)
- The Buried Giant (March 2015)
Movies from books:
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- British Council website on Kazuo Ishiguro
- January magazine interview with Kazuo Ishiguro
- MostlyFiction.com review Nocturnes
- Another MostlyFiction.com review of Never Let Me Go
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About the Author:
Kazuo Ishiguro was born In Nagasaki, Japan in 1954. He moved to England in 1960 when his father began research at the National Institute of Oceanography and was educated in Gilford, Surrey. Ishiguro attended the University of Kent at Canterbury (B.A. in 1978) and the University of East Anglia, where he received his M.A. in 1980.
He has been writing full-time since 1982. In 1983, shortly after the publication of his first novel, Kazuo Ishiguro was nominated by Granta magazine as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Writers'. He was also included in the same promotion when it was repeated in 1993.
His first novel, A Pale View of Hills, won the Winifred Holtby Prize of the Royal Society of Literature; his second, An Artist of the Floating World, won the 1986 Whitbread Book of the year Award and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Remains of the Day was awarded the 1989 Booker Prize and made into a movie.
In 1995 he received an Order of the British Empire for service to literature, and in 1998 was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
Kazuo Ishiguro lives in London with his wife and daughter.