How do I begin to write something about a book as marvellously written as Never Let Me Go? A mere cursory Google search will result in numerous reviews on this book far better than I can come up with. Still, I will try my best to write down my thoughts with what pathetic writing skills I have because I just have to say something or else my heart will burst into pieces.
The first time I ever heard of this book was when I got as a gift a DVD copy of the movie version from Louize of A Thought On Each Page during our book club’s first anniversary last year. I still haven’t watched it, though, because I am trying to be a purist when it comes to book adaptations. And I’m glad I read the book first because the story is definitely highly spoilery. When I saw the title, I first thought that it was some kind of a romantic drama. After reading the book, I found that it is actually a drama but it is definitely more than romance. For me, Never Let Me Go is a lot of things, which I would try to sift through in this lousy attempt at a review.
Monique was kind enough to gift me with an ebook copy a few months back, and I am more than eager to start reading my very first Kazuo Ishiguro book considering that more people I know have become Ishiguro converts after our book club’s monthly read of The Remains of the Day (which I endeavour to read very soon!)
***SPOILERS FROM HERE ON***
Okay, back to Never Let Me Go. Will it be an understatement to say that this book is amazing? Unlike Monsters of Men which is a blow-away-your-mind-into-shattered-pieces kind of amazing, Never Let Me Go is more like taking-away-your-heart-piece-by-piece kind of amazing.
The book starts a little bit slowly, and though some reviews say that they have been tempted to chuck it out after a few pages, I had a different reaction. Maybe, it’s because I have much faith on my friends who are really raving how good the book is, so I am kind of expecting to be blown away by the story as it progresses. In fact, I have enjoyed every page, savouring the prose and the intimate voice of the narrator, which is Kathy H. The opening statement isn’t really very impressing:
“My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years.”
This straight-forward, no nonsense introduction was what actually hooked me the first time. At first, I was wondering what “carers”, “donations”, “Hailsham”, and “guardian” meant, but these are terms which make this book really one of a kind. Aside from these, the narration consists mainly of reminiscences which, at the start, kind of confused me, but has on the other hand, also kept me going. Kathy’s recollections give off a strong feeling of nostalgia that, at times, while reading the book, I was reminded of me – reminiscing my college years at the dorm, or of the bar exams review. I think you tend to reminisce when you reach your 30s already? The ramblings of Kathy were not actually in chronological order but this is another thing that sets this book apart from all others. I love ramblings sometimes because I tend to do them too. They make the story feel close to home.
In Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro has created a world where human clones are being kept in a special school and this is where Kathy H., together with the other main characters, Tommy D. and Ruth, grew up. They are part of a government program where clones are developed in order to become organ donors to normal people in need of organ transplants. I was kind of wondering at first why the characters’ last names were given in initials but I think this is a meaning in itself: that clones are supposed to be less than humans devoid of any purpose and identity other than being organ donors.
However, Ishiguro was genius enough to give a clone a human voice through Kathy’s narration and therefore raises the ever resilient issue of ethics and morality of cloning. However, aside from this science fiction aspect, universal themes of love, friendship, and the purpose of life is also discussed with utmost sensitivity. After I was done with the book, I can’t help feeling a bit emotionally down, not exactly to the point of being teary-eyed, but emotional deep down enough that shedding tears seem to be a very shallow reaction. It was more of a groaning of my soul, feeling for Kathy H. as she yearns for what has been and yet accepting what lies ahead.
Finally, I want to end this with what Miss Lucy said to the Hailsham students one rainy day:
“If you’re to have decent lives, you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you, every one of you.”
My very first Kazuo Ishiguro and definitely not the last!
28/50 2012 Goodreads Reading Challenge.
1/4 Required Reading: August 2012