I often see a Stephen King quote floating about the internet “good books don’t give up all their secrets at once” and by that definition, Never Let Me Go is a good book.
Our narrator Kathy, sets the scene of her supposedly idyllic childhood at a boarding school called Hailsham. She appears to be recording her memories of her time there in a sort of memoir, as if it might explain something later on. She writes of her school friends, Ruth and Tommy and their guardians at the school especially Miss Laura and the young peoples journey to adulthood and the fate which has always awaited them.
I can’t really say much more without giving the game away and the mystery is so important to the story. Kathy talks to us as if we are an equal “I don’t know what it was like where you were” she tells us before describe something characteristic of Hailsham. This suggest that the reader knows the mystery even though it hasn’t been revealed. In many ways we do. The students at Hailsham are describe by Kathy as “knowing but not knowing” and the reader is in the same position. We know but nothing is ever explicitly explained to us. The parallel to the way the students at Hailsham have all these unspoken rules and understandings is incredibly prominent. As a result, the reader understands the atmosphere at the school through the atmosphere of the novel. This is so cleverly done I could praise it until the cows come home.
This mystery that isn’t a mystery keeps you reading and reading and reading. It isn’t an edge of the seat ‘I MUST SOLVE THE MYSTERY’ sort of page turner it’s just this pull towards understanding, a curiosity that can’t be satisfied. The plot itself is pretty unexciting, in fact I completely forgot about plot whilst reading because I was absorbed in these reminiscences in case there might be another clue, this anecdote, this is going to be the one where I find out the truth.
The characters are so well made by Ishiguro. They are honest human beings who have flaws and make mistakes and hurt other people. Ruth especially with the way she lies reminds me of a girl I went to school with. Kathy’s judgement of her is honest but not unkind so we see the rough and the smooth. Tommy is perhaps a little more romantically portrayed but again Kathy describes him as flawed, normal, human. It makes such a change to see people you recognise from real life portrayed in a novel. So often I find characters different to relate to, as if they were other from me, but it Never Let Me Go Ishiguro creates people who feels so real.
People often call this book science fiction. But ignore them. Ignore them all. This is literary fiction, science doesn’t come into it.
Would recommend to: read when you’re in a happy place. I Imagine it wouldn’t do anything good for the black dog.