"A room without books is like a body without a soul." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Told from the point of view of Kathy, now 31 years old, Never Let Me Go is the heartbreaking tale of her life and the lives of two of her friends - Ruth and Tommy - beginning with their childhoods spent at the seemingly idyllic British boarding school, Hailsham. Never Let Me Go is a sci-fi novel, set in a dystopian England in which all diseases are now curable, but at a horrifying price. I don’t want to reveal the gut-wrenching crux of the novel as it would spoil the story; part of the intrigue in the first part is your ignorance as to precisely what sort of school Hailsham is, and the tragedy of the cruel fate that awaits its students. The less you know the better.

Part one covers Kathy’s, Ruth’s and Tommy’s time spent at Hailsham. It’s clear from the offset that something isn’t quite right at the school. The students are being kept in the dark about something very important - one of the ‘Guardians’ informs them they are not being told enough about their future, there is an odd persistence for them to be ‘creative’, and they are under strict rules to remain within the grounds. Furthermore, people seem unnerved by their very presence, they are subjected to rigorous health checks and are commanded not to smoke as it’s much worse for them to do so than regular people. Part two covers their time after leaving Hailsham at age sixteen, when they move to the cottages and are allowed more freedom than ever before, and then the novel moves on to  the final stages of their lives.

Never Let Me Go is a distressing and sad story of friendship, love and the frailty of life; it brings into play ethical questions and is extremely relevant with regards to modern day advancements in science. It asks what price we would be willing to pay for a world where terminal illness is a thing of the past; something before reading this I thought would be unequivocally worthwhile regardless of the cost. 

Initially I was reluctant to read any more Ishiguro after studying The Remains of the Day for A-Level, which I found really dull. I’m very glad I succumbed to my curiosity and read Never Let Me Go though; it is a very thoughtful piece with compelling characters, a strong message and timeless themes. Ishiguro’s poetic and beautifully crafted writing helps to weave a tale of harrowing poignancy that is haunting, honest, emotional and devastating. 

Rating: 9/10

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