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Never Let Me Go Paperback – March 14, 2006
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"A page turner and a heartbreaker, a tour de force of knotted tension and buried anguish.” —Time
“A Gothic tour de force. . . . A tight, deftly controlled story . . . . Just as accomplished [as The Remains of the Day] and, in a very different way, just as melancholy and alarming.” —The New York Times
"Elegaic, deceptively lovely. . . . As always, Ishiguro pulls you under." —Newsweek
“Superbly unsettling, impeccably controlled . . . . The book’s irresistible power comes from Ishiguro’s matchless ability to expose its dark heart in careful increments.” —Entertainment Weekly
From the Inside Flap
From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, comes an unforgettable edge-of-your-seat mystery that is at once heartbreakingly tender and morally courageous about what it means to be human.
Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.
Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it's only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.
Never Let Me Go breaks through the boundaries of the literary novel. It is a gripping mystery, a beautiful love story, and also a scathing critique of human arrogance and a moral examination of how we treat the vulnerable and different in our society. In exploring the themes of memory and the impact of the past, Ishiguro takes on the idea of a possible future to create his most moving and powerful book to date.
"From the Hardcover edition.
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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.
I'm not sure why Ishiguro made some of the choices he did. The restraint employed in telling the story added to the uneasy sense of fate closing in but also distanced me from the sad outcomes of the characters. In contrast to the slow-going narration of the first 250 pages, the climactic scene includes a gush of narrative explanation that seemed clumsy and tacked on. Like other readers, I was disturbed by the complete passivity of the characters. On the other hand, a less literal reading suggests that the book is not about the exploitation of human clones at all but about the mundane ways most people muddle through their lives and blindly accept their fates.
"Never Let Me Go" reminded me of a great episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" called "The Measure of a Man." It involved the character Data, an android, having to prove his sentience to avoid being declared Starfleet property and being dismantled by order of a government bureaucrat. The stories are a little different, yet issues like the state's abuse of power, the value of artificial life - in this book, human clones - and the dignity of all life are similar. The TV show handled these themes compellingly in a 1-hour episode that haunts me 25 years after seeing it. As well-intentioned as the author is, I don't think that will be the case for this book.
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If You look for enjoyment, forget it. If you look for a BOOK, here it is. But beware, it will not be easy to forget it.