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Never Let Me Go Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 5, 2005
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All children should believe they are special. But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny. Kazuo Ishiguro's sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, is a masterpiece of indirection. Like the students of Hailsham, readers are "told but not told" what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own.
Offsetting the bizarreness of these revelations is the placid, measured voice of the narrator, Kathy H., a 31-year-old Hailsham alumna who, at the close of the 1990s, is consciously ending one phase of her life and beginning another. She is in a reflective mood, and recounts not only her childhood memories, but her quest in adulthood to find out more about Hailsham and the idealistic women who ran it. Although often poignant, Kathy's matter-of-fact narration blunts the sharper emotional effects you might expect in a novel that deals with illness, self-sacrifice, and the severe restriction of personal freedoms. As in Ishiguro's best-known work, The Remains of the Day, only after closing the book do you absorb the magnitude of what his characters endure. --Regina Marler
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–The elegance of Ishiguro's prose and the pitch-perfect voice of his narrator conspire to usher readers convincingly into the remembered world of Hailsham, a British boarding school for special students. The reminiscence is told from the point of view of Kathy H., now 31, whose evocation of the sheltered estate's sunlit rolling hills, guardians, dormitories, and sports pavilions is imbued with undercurrents of muted tension and foreboding that presage a darker reality. As an adult, Kathy re-engages in lapsed friendships with classmates Ruth and Tommy, examining the details of their shared youth and revisiting with growing awareness the clues and anecdotal evidence apparent to them even as youngsters that they were different from everyone outside. [...] Ishiguro conveys with exquisite sensitivity the emotional texture of the threesome's relationship, their bonds of personal loyalty that overcome fractures of trust, the palpable boundaries of hope, and the human capacity for forgiveness. Highly recommended for literary merit and as an exceptional platform for the discussion of a controversial topic.–Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA
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Ah, this little book. Deceptively little. These central characters, they remain so calm and resigned, from the very beginning of their lives, as outlined and traced by Ishiguro’s protagonist and her friends.
It is a horrible truth, what’s in this book, albeit wrapped in a concept that is not yet a reality in our own timeline. Sadly, though, we do live in a timeline where we as a society marginalize certain groups. We write them off. We try so hard to see them as unlike ourselves, and this somehow eases this enforced distinction between “us” and “them.”
When I was 15, I visited Auschwitz. That started me on a many-year journey, where I read everything I could get my hands on relating to the Holocaust. The Nazis. WWII. Most of the 12 million people who died in those camps were also seemingly “resigned” to their fate. I have never stopped wondering whether this was a true resignation, or whether it was a feeling of overwhelming defeat, or something altogether different, or a combination of factors.
It is so very sad, the ideas embraced by Never Let Me Go. They speak so loudly to a reality within which we all exist. The best thing to take away from this novel, I think, is to strengthen our resolve to stand against such false distinctions between people.
We are all the same. We all suffer. We all experience joy. And yes, we all have “souls,” or whatever you choose to call it.
A most wonderfully intriguing and thought-provoking book to end this year with.
Most HIGHLY recommended.
Everything about this narrator's world was odd and had a obvious disturbing vibe to it. What is even more terrifying is that I can see this happening in our future with the rapid advancements in technology. If that day comes, our values and morals will be put to the test when we try to define what is ethical and what is not.
This story reminded me of the animal agriculture industry in a lot of ways. We refuse to know what's going on when it comes to how meat and dairy products reach our plates so we put up walls and gates to hide us from the terrible truth.
In this scenario, clones have been created to harvest anything and everything from their bodies in order to save "real humans" from dying from diseases. About maybe 60% through the book, I started to understand what was happening. These 'students' were being raised for slaughter. The narrator was lucky to actually have somewhat of a "normal" upbringing while others were in far worse conditions.
It scares me to think that this could happen. These students had feelings, emotions, intelligence, etc. yet were treated like animals being ready to be killed. They were taught at a very young age that they would be donators. Everything about it was normalized in a way they didn't see it as problem. They believed that's how it has always been and nothing is wrong with it. They even have the students be the care takers for the donors because no one wants to see the suffering and pain the donors have to go through. How messed up is that?
I also found the relationships hard to swallow. What they thought of as friendships and love, were not anywhere near it. However, that's all they've known. Any difficult or deep conversation was immediately shunned so surface conversation was the only acceptable way to communicate. I thought Kath and Ruth's friendship was toxic in a lot of ways. It was almost as if they didn't know how to treat a friend. The one great example that I saw was in the Cottages. Ruth had two identities: the one that completely ignored Kath and Tommy and desired attention from the veterans and then the one that sat with Kath at night, spilling secrets and such. I think this is why Kath remained friends with her even though Ruth treated her so terribly. Her whole life she had to constantly filter herself but in those hours of sipping tea with no filter, it gave her some sort of relief. It allowed her to be a more truer form of herself.
Overall, I thought the book was incredibly mind provoking. I wish there was a happy ending but ultimately, we only receives answers rather than Kath, Tommy, and Ruth riding off into the sunset.
That said, I found the tone of the book, reading it instead of listening to it, quite somber. Slightly depressing. But still engrossing. (I purchased this for my Kindle recently, so I'm reading it again as opposed to listening to the audio version, and it seems more bleak).
In short, I feel it is well written, there is a little bit of suspense, and well-developed characters that keep the unusual book going at a decent pace. There are a lot of allusions, because the main character is often talking about the past, so she doesn't quite remember everything exactly and doesn't quite know what to make of things because she sees things differently as she matures. It's interesting to read her thought processes.