Chris's Reviews > Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
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Sep 11, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction

** spoiler alert ** Boy, is this book aptly named. I've been haunted by it ever since I read it.

I've read reviews that refer to it as "science fiction", which I suppose it is in the same way that 1984 or Slaughterhouse-5 are "science fiction", but that is much too small a box to put it in. It's a commentary on social engineering, class structure, morality, and identity, and it never fails to provoke the reader.

A lot of the complaints about Ishiguro seem to stem from the fact that his writing is somewhat cold and unemotional. That's a true statement as far as it goes, but what it ignores is that his protagonists are also somewhat cold and unemotional, so the voice makes sense.

The narrator of Never Let Me Go is a clone who, along with unnumbered other clones, are bred solely to supply organs for the benefit of "real" people. From the point of view of the average reader, the appropriate reaction to this is outrage. What makes this novel work so well is that the narrator never expresses outrage or even hints at it. She simply accepts the situation as the way things are. Even the revelation of why the clones exist, which you would think would be the emotional centerpiece of the novel, is treated in an off-hand, matter-of-fact way, suggesting the "normalcy" of it in the world of the narrator. I think this is what makes the novel so profound. If the clones don't recognize the barbarity of what is happening to them, then by extension, what elements of our own society that we accept as "proper" or "normal" would also be recognized as barbarous by the more enlightened?

This doesn't begin to tell you all the themes this novel touches on. Do clones have souls? Can they really love each other? Given the fact that the clones are provided with comfort and education before their organs are harvested, does that in any way reduce the guilt of the larger society?

What higher achievement can there be for a novel than to make us think? This one is brilliant.
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