Never Let Me Go
Reason for reading: This was the June pick for the little book club I have with my wife. I read about this book when it first came out but the synopses I read were pretty vague so I passed on it. I kept reading good things about it and finally decided to pick it up.
I recommend you stop reading here if you are afraid of spoilers as I find it impossible to review this book without giving away a major plot point. If you would like to read a non-spoilerish review, please visit Stefanie’s review at So Many Books.
Quote: “We all know it. We’re modelled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren’t psychos. That’s what we come from. We all know it, so why don’t we say it?” (Italics from author)
This is a story about friends. Friends who grew up together at Hailsham, sort of a boarding school. This is a story of their struggles to get along, to figure out their relationships and their place in their little community. They must come to terms with each other and their eventual donations, for they are clones who have been raised as organ farms. This is a story that could have been so much more…
“Who cares?”, I kept thinking as I read Never Let Me Go. Not me. I don’t care about these children and their petty squabbles. They have little fights with each other, patch things up, have a good time for awhile and then fight again. Nothing extraordinary happens.
Herein lies my main complaint. Even after you discover they are clones (which I knew before I even began reading, so I wasn’t even able to enjoy the suspense) who have been bred for their organs, the big moral questions are left unanswered. But not just unanswered, for the most part those questions aren’t even asked. Even to the end, when Kathy and Tommy approach the founders of Hailsham, the tough questions are not asked. They merely want a deferral from donations and the resulting death. They don’t want to know why they must donate, why people think them less then human, why their lives don’t matter, why the English government allows this to continue, if cloning humans for their organs is wrong or right or neither. The topic of whether or not clones have “souls” is broached, but not in much depth, and almost as an aside.
Why? Why? Why? No one cares. The clones just are, the only moral judgment given is that non-clones believe that clones should never be treated as human, they are merely things, sub-human, medical miracles. Did I miss something, did Ishiguro attempt to deal with these questions without explicitly asking them? If so, I don’t see it anywhere in the novel. I was never given a reason to care what happened to these people, these clones. They didn’t even seem to care themselves. Mostly I found myself annoyed at their little disagreements, and the snobbish way Ruth treated everyone.
There was also an overuse of little cliffhangers. Kathy, the narrator, would end sections of the book by ominously mentioning something that happened previously. This got a bit old after awhile as it was a contrived way to move the reader on to the next page.
Yet, with all these complaints I still feel I need to read another Ishiguro book. Mostly because of his style, which is simple and almost immature. Was this style specific to Never Let Me Go? Was it used to represent the clones inability to mature, to grow intellectually? Or is it a style the author uses in all of his books? These are questions I need answered.
After all these complaints a rating of 2.5 looks a little high. But I can’t deny the topic is intriguing even if the big questions aren’t asked. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t care very much. And yet somehow it left me wanting to read more from the author.