"It never occurred to me that our lives, until then were so closely interwoven, could unravel and separate over a thing like that. But the fact was, I suppose, there were powerful tides tugging us apart by then, and it only needed something like that to finish the task. If we'd understood that back then-who knows?-maybe we'd have kept a tighter hold of one another."
Somewhere in something or other "shire" England, Kathy has been a carer for eleven years, slowly wearing down from the emotional strains of the job, hoping to make it to twelve before she has to address an intricate matter. Kathy has just been granted the fortunate opportunity to pick and choose who she directly cares for in hopes of slowing her withdrawal from the system that has been developed for people like her. This honour has extended her life as a carer, but like a moth to a flame she has also been forced to revisit the past, making her look back at her troubled childhood, address the many questions that are burning deep inside, and determine her next step. Will the truth finally reveal itself? Or will she remain living in the shadows waiting for her time to come knowing that somewhere, someone is living her life?
Kathy, Tommy, Ruth were once students at a boarding school in London called Hailsham. They maintain a casual, yet complex relationship that on the surface seems to have great elasticity but in reality had great complexity. Between the three of them a variety of things can change course at the batting of an eye, or an utterance of a word, but in the end, it can in a matter of minutes bounce back as if nothing ever happened. Within the confines of the school, teachers are formally referred to as guardians, while the education system in itself is built around creativity and healthy living. This curriculum as it has stood for many years is all the students have ever known, it's natural, no need for questions or doubts. As they continue to grow, matters inside and outside the school begin to change which influence's Kathy's perception of life and with the subtleties of an ambiguous guardian named Miss Lucy, Kathy begins to feel that there is more to the world than she was lead to believe.
“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart. That's how it is with us. It's a shame, Kath, because we've loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can't stay together forever.”
Maddening is probably not the best way to describe Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, but that happened to be my initial reaction. After a period of further absorption and contemplation I would have to roll the dice with the less-impulsive, yet still impactful dissatisfaction as my overall feeling for this novel. This probably in the end is more appropriate given my respect for foreign voices, the way they see the world, and my personal expectations prior to reading. There are similarities between this novel and my ‘native sista’ (without bias might I add) Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Both are works of speculative fiction in a dystopian world with a presence of science fiction (if you're in to that sort of thing). Ishiguro focuses on the innocence of children as he has them come of age in this peculiar world while Atwood focused on the classification of roles within genders as well as the declining status of ethnic groups and women in a world that is not implausible. What I enjoyed about The Handmaid's Tale was the emotional investment that it demanded. Never Let Me Go reminded me too much of an ordinary story that failed to take advantage of the plot lines that differentiated it from the rest. Ishiguro had this book published in 2005 which only magnifies my disappointment because the possibilities of cloning at a time like this was not all that absurd and not very speculative on his part. Atwood on the other hand had her book released in 1985 about a militarized society with little respect for the role of women by taking away all of their rights and going back to the orders of biblical times. Talk about a culture shock, talk about back to the future to the 'nth' degree.
"So you're waiting, even if you don't quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realize that you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don't hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you - of how you were brought into this world and why - and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs. The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it's a cold moment. It's like walking past a mirror you've walked past everyday of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange."
In a nutshell Never Let Me Go is a story of old friends, new beginnings, forgiveness, destiny, failure, and mortality. A lot of themes that I am sure everyone can relate too. A modernized approach to an alternative near future with little merit for anything in the form of a thought-provoking piece of literature besides the whole argument; why this story now? It is a mere journey and a look through the lens at a few unique children as they grow from young children to adults in an England where strangers seem to know more about them then they do of themselves. Common logic asserts that when reading a novel of this genre that you will spend quite a bit of time living in your own head, questioning the viability of these circumstances, as well as wondering what you would do in any one of the situations that arise. What you find with this story is why even bother? If the author is not demanding that of the reader, then why even reciprocate his intended feelings. From an optimists point of view I suppose you should just enjoy the journey with all of its sentimentalities and the search for self-actualization. I would also suggest going into this novel thinking of it as a horror novel, you may have a more emotional attachment with that thought in the back of your mind.
A predetermined life with an extremely limited future and few aspirations, an existence where you're told that life as you know it is controlled by someone else's design. You can definitely draw parallels to one’s own life, but I wish it offered more beyond symbols and metaphors. Take a little bit of The Brothers Grimm Hansel and Gretel, with a little of M. Night Shamalyan's The Village and the backdrop of any of the 1980's teenage coming of age drama and you get Never Let Me Go. With all of the rules, the cliques, the boundaries, the mythology, and typical social behaviors in an atypical environment this book leads you on a unique journey that will leave you sobbing into the pages hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
“‘We all know it. We're modeled 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? A woman like that? Come on. Yeah, right, Tommy. A bit of fun. Let's have a bit of fun pretending.'"