Never Let Me Go

18515951by Kazuo Ishiguro
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

This has been on my “should read” list for a few years (probably since the movie came out, honestly) and I finally picked it up for a book club read. I’m so glad I did, because the writing is beautiful and I’d forgotten enough of the plot to appreciate the few twists that Kathy H. narrates. This is the kind of science fiction I tend to prefer – our world but with a few key differences that twist society.

Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth grow up at Hailsham, an isolated and exclusive English boarding school. At 31, Kathy looks back on their friendships over the years and why the guardians of the school stressed how special they were. Her gradual revelations regarding their status as clones and organ donors are haunting because they are so matter-of-fact. Kathy is perceptive and practical, and her portrayal of their gradual acceptance is wistful without begging for pity. Much of the strength came from lack of specifics as well. We don’t know what four donations the donors are expected to make, what begins their donation period, or how far apart they are. We don’t know how they get around in “normal” life as they learn to be carers and prepare for their donations.

The questions Kathy leaves us with go beyond ethics regarding cloning and organ donation. She asks us whether they were better off being sheltered from their fates, or if they should have been told from the beginning. Was it worth giving them an education, a sense of culture, or should they be treated as property, kept in ignorance? Why give them a sense of self-worth that the public doesn’t have for them?

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Never Let Me Go is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website, here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – At first glance this is probably an odd recommendation to make. However, the similar simplistic narration and themes are the connecting points for me. This novel deals with the exploitation of children, gradually revealed secrets, and the feelings of the children as they realize their position as pawns. See my review here.
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – This deals with creating a perfect society rather than healthcare, but the themes of genetic manipulation, control of information, freedom, and human rights is in keeping with the questions asked in Never Let Me Go.
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – A short novel that is credited as the birth of science fiction as a genre. The Time Traveler relates his adventure 800,000 years into the future and the decayed, divided society he found there.
  • Eva by Peter Dickinson – This is intended for a younger audience, but it’s still one of the strangest novels I’ve ever read. My advice is to check it out and try to avoid plot spoilers at all costs. I read this a long time ago and the uncomfortable realizations have stuck with me.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Eve Messenger
    Sep 20, 2015 @ 14:44:29

    What and interesting story. I’m definitely adding this one to my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Bipasha
    Mar 05, 2016 @ 11:00:02

    Last year I read Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Though I enjoyed reading it, I must say it left behind a pensive sort of mood long after I had put the book away…

    Liked by 1 person


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