Sunday, August 26, 2007

Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go tells the story of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, three children attending what at first seems to be a fairly typical English boarding school. Differences are slowly and obscurely introduced leaving the reader a bit impatient after a while as the general plot isn’t hard to figure out in the first quarter of the book and the veiled references and secrecy at that point become annoying. As the story unfolds, the reader is able to see early and quickly that the children of Hailsham aren’t your average children. The talk of care givers and donations lead to the quick realization that the story is telling the tale of a system of clones who are created and raised up for the purpose of use as organ transplants. Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are three of these clones.

The readers aren’t the only ones frustrated by the “I told you, but I didn’t” communication as the characters find out they’ve always known their purpose, they were always told of their future but yet no one ever “told” them. As the story unfolds we see them grow from childhood through adolescence, forming friendships and relationships. The ritualistic nature of childhood is drawn well along with the tendency of children to create fantastical rationale for things they don’t understand. The degree to which the children of Hailsham go and the length of time they cling to these fantasies and rumors is exaggerated but rightly so as they lack the intervention of adulthood to chip away at this tendency and shine the light of reality upon them.

The plot and general theme of this story is excellent. Ishiguro has an good story to tell, but the lack of emotion in the characters, the stiff coldness of the reactions of everyone around them (save Tommy and that is quickly worked out of him by the children themselves) is unsatisfying. The main character Kathy is so detached that it is hard to care about her. Even when Ruth finally admits that she has kept Kathy and Tommy apart for all those years when it should have been the two of them together, no one seems the slightest bit put out. In fact, it seems hard to believe any type of relationship could develop between Tommy and Kathy at that point, but the author pushes them through into one.

The end of the story, with it’s big reveal and the final ripping away of the last hope for avoiding the donations that will eventually end their lives, is as anticlimactic as soggy bread.

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