Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is about the intersecting lives of three students from Hailsham who end up reuniting after leaving the school. It is clear as we keep reading, as the narrative is told as a flashback by 31-year-old Kathy, this is a special school and so are the attending students. They are isolated in the school grounds and have no memory of how they entered and instead of teachers, they have Guardians. But they keep up the appearance of being regular, of being normal, of fitting by taking cues from books, other people and television. But they start to realise, at least Kathy and Tommy do, that information is being hidden from them by the Guardians. This is made obvious by bits and pieces the Guardian let slip when they are not careful.
Kathy and Tommy find they are unable to have babies, pursue careers that involve being celebrities or avoid the fate for which they were created. Ruth on the other hand desperately wants to believe her future will be full of promise and speaks if it will be so although the readers would just feel pity for her ignorance. Her fate at the end though triggers some empathy as she shows that she does have some heart. Once the students discover the truth about the mysteries of their past and what actually awaits them in the future, you realise the world created by Ishiguro is seriously dystopian.
In the beginning, I found the start a bit slow and contemplated giving up since it seemed boring. But I’m glad I kept reading because the pace picked up once the descriptions of Hailsham life gained prominence. It is food for thought about the possibilities of our awaiting future, even if the novel is a work of imagination. I have heard it has been adapted into a movie as well although I confess I didn’t hear much about its release. The title of the book, Never Let Me Go, comes from an old 1950s song by Judy Bridgewater. It is based on a poignant scene from the book about a little girl’s personal interpretation of the lyrics while she dances to it. The girl is Kathy.
Sometimes the way Kathy narrates can be distant but I feel this preserves the twist that awaits us which is sinisterly hinted at throughout the book. Like the reader, even Kathy herself is not privy to this secret. I think this works in the book’s favour and therefore inspired me to finish reading.