Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is one of those books that I knew at some point or another I’d end up reading. Every time I saw it in Barnes and Noble my interest was peaked by the sense of mystery the synopsis gave.

And indeed, Never Let Me Go is one of those books that doesn’t give all its answers right away. Rather it, like a rope, it gives a little bit more and a little bit more, keeping you reading on, until the final conclusion, the culmination of the confusion of all the little details.

Now, I might spoil the book a tad, but only in explaining the themes. I’ll try not to give too much of the plot away, but I don’t feel I can adequately pull apart the book without revealing some information.

Never Let Me Go centers around three students and best friends, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, from a prestigious school called Hailsham. They grow up in a very cultured environment and are constantly being reminded by those who watch over them that they are special.

The thing is, though, the reader doesn’t fully know why these students are so special.

The reason for their education and unique upbringing is revealed as one reads further. As the book continues one comes to understand that Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are clones. If Ishiguro had released this information to his readers in the beginning, one wouldn’t have sympathized with these “clones.” But as he doesn’t, one begins to see them as human beings, people who are so like oneself that it’s startlingly when one finally realizes that they are not fully like oneself.

But that’s the point of the book.

One must understand that these young men and women, despite their origins are completely human. The quirks of their personalities, thoughts, friendships, and feelings are so distinctly human than one isn’t left with the option to think they are anything other – because they aren’t anything other.

Kathy’s narrative voice especially highlights this fact, as her prose is so like that of someone looking back and remembering, one feels that she is as human as you and me.

Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.

If one does not understand that they are human, one cannot understand the dire, tragic situation their lives, and thus their souls, are placed in.

These characters are not viewed as human by the world outside their school. They’re bred and exploited for their bodies, and this isn’t viewed as immoral because those exploiting them don’t see them as humans with a soul the same as you and I.

The message of the book, unlike some say, is not a metaphor of the minoritys’ experience nor is it one about how dangerous technology is.

As it is said near the end of the book, when the characters are questioning those who raised them of their upbringing, “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.”

Rather than being another book about the dangers of technology gone too far, the real warning is in our pursuit of technology not to let our ambition overtake our compassion, humanity, and morality.

I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart.

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 (I absolutely loved this book, however I don’t recommend this for young readers as sex is a topic discussed quite often. That being said, the message surpasses anything inappropriate and there are only one of two instances of graphic description.)

 

 

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