Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Release Date: April 2005
Publisher: Vintage Books, 288 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
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The Summary (from Amazon)
As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.
Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special - and how they gift will shape the rest of their time together.
I watched the movie version of this book about a year ago. I didn't even realize that it was based on a book, but I definitely wish now that I had read the book first. The book almost reads like a mystery - you can tell there is something strange about Hailsham, but you can't quite put your finger on it. Unfortunately, I already knew what it was because of the movie. Don't worry, I won't spoil it here.
Kathy, the narrator, alternates between the past and the present. She slowly and thoughtfully takes you on a journey through her history, introducing you to relevant people and places. Each and every thing Kathy tells you is important, but you won't know why. You might not understand why these students are so special, so protected, for a very long while. I think the mysterious quality is one of the book's strengths but also, possibly, one of it's weaknesses. It could be really easy to feel detached from this novel. The pace is incredibly slow. While I loved it because it forced me to slow down and really think about what I was reading, it won't be for everyone.
There are a number of ethical and moral questions that this book raises. However, it never addresses them. Personally, I think doing so would have detracted from the book. I really enjoyed reading something that was so different from anything I've ever read before. I know I'm not saying anything substantial about the plot, but that's because I want others to discover it for themselves. I will say, however, that this book made me think. I closed the book after the last page and felt like I needed to just sit there and process everything.
This book is tragic and depressing. But I never once felt like I was going to cry. There is a small sense of detachment from the story that I think plays really well into what Kathy is telling you about how people look at students from Hailsham and other schools like it. I felt drained at the end of Never Let Me Go, but I also felt better for having read it.
"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. That's how I think it is with us. It's a shame, [spoiler], because we've loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can't stay together forever."