Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Literary fiction
“Because maybe, in a way, we didn’t leave it behind nearly as much as we might once have thought. Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and no matter how much we despised ourselves for it–unable quite to let each other go.”
This is one of those books that upon starting, you immediately sense that all is not as it seems – which exists as an underlying current throughout the entirety of the book, slowly heightening to the climax to which all will finally be revealed. Whilst I’ll admit I wasn’t completely surprised by the ending – and in fact slightly disappointed it wasn’t as shocking as I had anticipated it to be – the themes highlighted in the storyline make it an extremely thought-provoking read. I couldn’t help becoming attached to the characters, especially Kathy, and become increasingly invested in their fates, only making the story all the more impactful.
The narrative style definitely does take some adjusting to. It is written in Kathy’s first-person POV which has an extremely conversational style, meaning that she very often trails into different tangents (although, of course, deliberately done by the author) when recounting stories and incidents – a narrative device that can become a bit tedious to follow at times. It also felt that there was a lot of unnecessary detail included in a lot of the stories, which although that can be important in areas such as building the atmosphere and depth of the characters, can also make it monotonous to read. But it’s safe to say that I soon was able to mostly overlook this aspect and become fully engrossed in the characters and the storyline that is so intricately carved by Ishiguro.
Kathy is a very likeable character – looking out for Tommy and putting up with Ruth, it is easy to slide into her shoes and see everything from her perspective. I love how Ishiguro was able to steadily maintain and heighten a sense of suspense as Kathy revealed more and more of herself, and how vividly the complicated dynamic between Kathy, Tommy and Ruth was captured. The themes of friendship and betrayal woven into their interactions and relationships with each other as a result of the events unfolding around them, made the ending all the more heartbreaking. It revealed how inexplicably human they were.
This book explores the power of culture, upbringing and indoctrination in accepting the constraints placed within society. It is a subtle critique of our susceptibility as humans, perhaps why the ending has left many feeling uncomfortable and dissatisfied. But I believe that is what makes it all the more powerful and thought-provoking. The more you think about it, the more it may, eerily enough, resonate with our current realities.