|Never Let Me Go|
Ishiguro's 6th novel, like his previous (Remains of the Day, etc.), is sparingly written and filled with what seem like mundane details of life for the few characters involved. However, the more you read these novels, the more you accidentally walk into a sort of "otherworldliness" because of the strange surprises and slowly opening oddities involved in the character's lives. Called Science Fiction by many people because of the overlying events and undercurrents that essentially make the lives of each character, I think using that label would fail to point out what really seems to be going on in this book: the deep and intricate impact that science can and will have on human lives, their standing ethical views, and even their consciousness and freedoms.
The story in Never Let me Go is told by 31 year old Kathy H., in a retrospective focus on her intertwined friendship with two people: Ruth and Tommy, while they were at a seemingly idealistic school for children without families called Hailsham (located in England in the 1990's). The Narration of this novel is cool, placid and distanced. Kathy H. doesn't seem too emotionally entangled in the telling of the story although she gives meticulous recollections. At first we accept this calmness in her voice because it feels like she is only recalling the drama of childhood, which in hindsight always feels a little less relative. The trivialities of adolescents during school days seems, during some of this story, to be possibly the most boring thing a person could read about. However, here there is a very obvious sense of missing something, something underneath the layer of the narration. Little hints and slips of what appear to Kathy H. as being 'obvious' begin to give the reader an idea that what you see here is not really what is going on, and you find out with the characters more secrets as they come across. The first clues most people notice in this novel is a strange vocabulary to refer to various people involved. There are "carers", "completion", etc. which hint at a sort of sub-social area of existence that these people may take for everyday, but that not everyone knows about.
What I love about this story is, foremost, it's feeling like it could be universal for every childhood. Let me elaborate. Because, as this story goes, NO, not every child is a clone of an existing human being, being raised at a private school separate from everyone else in order to someday care for other students as they donate their organs until death and then, themselves, donate their organs to "completion". Obviously we are not going through that these days or in the past. But as the students in this story are figuring out what is happening around them, how really special they actually are, it reminds me very much of growing up and finding out the basic toughness and ugliness of reality for all kids coming up in the world. The piece of fact that build over time in this novel to the one overwhelming reality (that these people were made to donate organs and die, solely) is brought about just like it is for every kid, in mundane details. You find out accidentally there is no Santa or Easter bunny. You slowly come to realize not everyone is nice, bad things happen, your parents aren't completely awesome and perfect, and that some people are just evil for no reason. The universality is the childhood affliction that, really, no one tells you what the hell is going on and over time you just have to piece it together yourself to figure out what's happening as the real world kind of seeps in. and the seeping in part makes us unconsciously really accept it more than if it was handed to us as a bulleted list. And in this novel the characters seem so calmly accepting I guess for that reason, years of preparatory conditioning and slow revelations that don't cause too much of a shock.
There are a lot of other really important things going on in this story other than just a science fiction type drama. I especially feel this way since, at the time I'm reading it, this story is taking place in the past in a world I can pretty much wholly identify, namely England in the 1990's. we've already cloned animals, and it doesn't feel that unrealistic since we've just finished the entire human gene map also. this book really addresses so many issues now and for the future that I feel like I can't possibly name them all., the most important obviously being: what will we do when we can clone people? Will something like this actually happen? And if so, is it badů or is it good (both according to us, and according to this novel)? The novel really lays out all the necessary deceptions and honesties that go into ethical questions like this. When would you tell someone they were made for organ donation? How obligated would a person in that position be to give up their self for that type of service? You sort of feel like the characters in this book, other than looking to put off their completion for a few years, really have just accepted what they exist for once they've figured it out. And I can't tell if this is sad, or if this is somehow related to things that people go through already in everyday life now and just accept so much they don't realize they are bizarre and possibly unethical.
- Amanda Spadaccini | 2005-11-03