If you pick up a copy of Never Let Me Go, without any prior knowledge of what it’s about, the story that unfolds will seem at first to be a simple coming-of-age story about a young woman and her friends.
And basically, that’s exactly what it is. But the beauty of Never Let Me Go is that the characters are special – both to the reader, and to themselves – something that we (and they) discover a little at a time as the story progresses.
The narrator is Kathy H., 31 years old. She tells us about growing up at a place called Hailsham, which will remind you of a boarding school. But it’s more than that. It’s been set up as a refuge for these special children, to show the world that they should indeed be treated as special.
Kathy tells us about her good friends, Tommy and Ruth, and how they grew up together, learning as time unfolded why they were there and what their purpose in life would be. The scene begins in Hailsham, then moves to The Cottages.
We read words that identify groups of people – carers, donors, guardians, white coats, models, possibles. As the story unfolds, these words begin to make sense to the reader.
Never Let You Go may shock you as realization dawns. But then, our education is so subtle, hidden in the dialogue and descriptive narrative of the youngsters. They slowly begin piecing together their raisons d’etre. And if they’re not shocked, then why should we be?
Author Kazuo Ishiguro gently takes us by the hand and shows us a possible future – one that will bring extension of life to some, and meaning and purpose to others. If nothing else, Never Let Me Go will open your eyes and challenge your sense of ethics.