Vintage Books, 2005
Rating 3 out of 5 stars
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro challenges us to look at life and its importance by having us see the world through the eyes of Kathy, a carer who travels between centers, taking care of those who have donated. Kathy's story is in told in flashbacks as she weaves her current understanding of her life and her world into the young Kathy's limited view from the confines of a boarding school called Halisham. With her friends Ruth and Tommy, Kathy is attempting to find out what exactly makes them all so special. They know that being a student at Halisham is special, but they don't know why and as Kathy fits the pieces of the puzzle together through memories of her days at Halisham and those following it, we start to understand pretty early on what is happening and who these children are.
I like the ideas behind this novel. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are desperately trying to figure out who they are and yearning for a life they all know they won't be able to have. They're told so much from the beginning: they know as young children that when they are older they become carers and help donors. Then they will become donors and eventually complete. It's simple, but it doesn't keep them from wanting more in their life. It also doesn't keep them from loving and hurting and being jealous and mourning--which is where the questions within their world all lie. Do these children, these young people, these men and women count as one of us? What is it that makes us human and how do we decide? What is that worth? What is a life that holds no hope for a future? I didn't come away with any answers or life changing ideas, but there is the fear of what will come in our future as a human race and what we will allow as human beings.
Although I dislike saying this, my favorite character is Ruth. I dislike this because Ruth is mean. She manipulates everyone around her so that she gets what she wants. As children she begins an imaginary group where they "protect" one of the guardians, but it is she who decides who is in and who is out of the group. No one seems to protest too much because she'll kick them out if they do. She speaks to Kathy like she is extremely naive and then goes about making fun of Tommy constantly. Even though she dates Tommy through much of their teen years, Ruth says demeaning things right to his face. I should dislike her. But she's the only interesting one. Tommy is vacuous, which is one reason they make fun of him. He never gets anything and even Kathy, who doesn't make fun of him is always noting how he doesn't get jokes and can't catch onto things. However he is sweet. Kathy is a bit...disconnected to her story. Maybe it is to cope with all that she's learned, but she is naive and even when she's retelling stories from her childhood, there's a bit of naivete that still clings to her. I'm not sure how much of a story she would have if it weren't for Ruth thrusting herself in there and messing things up now and them. Although this is in fact Kathy's story, would it have even been told without Ruth's insistence? I don't know. I just wasn't a big fan of hers.
Overall, I enjoyed Never Let Me Go, but it was slow for me, and with Kathy being the narrator, it was sometimes just blah reading her thoughts. It does give you a lot to think about and I wish I would have read this in college so that I could have a great discussion about it in a class or out on the patio. Kind of like how Halisham was for Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy.
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