105. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Okay, how does one properly pronounce “Kazuo Ishiguro” and say “Dude, you’re very clever!”Because, this author wrote a very clever book tapping at your conscience, making you think about your soul and re-define what makes a human… human.

Never Let Me Go is the type of book which may or may not hold your attention as it may seem like a teenage memoir with hints of mystery, but when the veil of mystery unfolds I kid you not, it is like a punch to your gut.

The genre is Dystopian Sci-Fi and reading it you’ll never know till you get to the end of how each and every single sentence held so much power.

If you didn’t know, there is a movie adaptation starring Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield and Carey Muligan. In the beginning I didn’t know it was based off a book and I remember feeling incomplete after watching it.

(Image from Electric Literature)

Like I got the story, but I didn’t get it either.

But this book.

Oh man, it cleared so many things.

Summary:

The story is narrated by Kathy H. who is a carer for a long time and gets to choose her own organ donors to look after, now. She starts reminiscing about her time at Hailsham and the friends she made there, particularly Tommy and Ruth.

“Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.”

Hailsham is a boarding school, where the students are brought up with strict rules by guardians who’re also their teachers. A lot of emphasis is put on creating and making art to be displayed in an exhibition where they can buy each other’s work, forming a collection.

“You have to accept that sometimes that’s how things happen in this world. People’s opinions, their feelings, they go one way, then the other.

The best pieces are taken up to “The Gallery” owned by a Madame, who the kids only see visiting rarely. Meanwhile, Kathy goes over her friendship with Ruth who dominates most of the girls but always has a soft spot for her.

“It never occurred to me that our lives, until then so closely interwoven, could unravel and separate over a thing like that.”

With Tommy, Kathy’s friendship is different as he is mostly bullied by the other kids and gets into these anger bursts, but somehow she gets through to him. Gradually, as they become teenagers Ruth and Tommy become a couple.

“… somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and no matter how much we despised ourselves for it–unable quite to let each other go.”

When they turn 16 they are moved to The Cottages (from where they undertake the training to become carers) and meet other people similar to them. Soon a rumour begins that students from Hailsham can have their donations deferred if they can prove they are in love.

“…I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go.”

Fast forward both Ruth and Tommy become donors and Kathy manages to become the carer of both them at separate instances. Despite the many years since leaving the Cottages the rumour of deferment never managed to die down and in an effort to acquire it for themselves Tommy and Kathy go have a visit to Madame.

“And if these incidents now seem full of significance and all of a piece, it’s probably because I’m looking at them in the light of what came later…”

During this visit, they hope their art can build up a stronger case for them but instead they are left with some astonishing facts that brings them face to face with their true identities.

“Poor creatures. What did we do to you? With all our schemes and plans?”

 

Review:

The book is pretty small and easily readable, less than 300 pages actually.

For the first 200 pages I couldn’t figure out what was all so Dystopian or Sci-Fi about this book. Where were the tyrants? Which year was it in? No weird sub-atomic machines or weapons? What about factions and tributes?

It all just seemed a memoir of happier and carefree days of early teens and twenties when your still figuring out life, ambitions, sexuality and likes. A huge focus was put on art and you could see the importance of it by way the students were encouraged to be painters or creators.

But somewhere after the 220 page mark, all those doubts that the students made about themselves, the importance of making those art pieces, the reason why there were particular restrictions, was revealed in such a simple yet dramatic way, that it almost took my breath away.

The fact that for the entire reading journey I considered them silly teenager turned adults until the moment of the plot twist split my mind in two. You’re telling me they’re adults but not adults? (you’ll get it if you know which plot twist I’m talking about)

So like a puzzle piece the entire story just came together in my mind like this big picture, and every careless comment, preference or fight just stood out.

It’s significance stood out and you’re just left speechless.

Onto the basics:

  1. Rating: 5.0/5.0
  1. Favorite quote: “We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all.”
  2. Reader level: Fairly easy
  3. Should you read:  Defnitely!!
  4. Would I read it again: I would really like too. Something tells me that the second time around reading this book will be very different.

Till next time,

-Sarah

 

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