Never Let Me Go

Book Review by Ammarah Cruz

Reading a book before watching the movie can provide a clear and uncontaminated view of what the author originally envisaged of the story – and this is exactly what I intended with Never Let Me Go.

It took a total of five days to complete reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s work. The novel is based primarily on the lives of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth – three children fiercely shielded from the ‘real’ world due to the boundaries enforced by the imposing presence of Hailsham boarding school.

But Hailsham is no ordinary boarding school. Instead of studying academic subjects such as mathematics and science, the students are encouraged to learn art and poetry. Teachers are referred to as guardians, and vigorous health tests are part of the norm.

As readers, we find ourselves in the same position as Kathy, Tommy and Ruth – all curious and desperate to explore life beyond the world of Hailsham. We discover the facts and incidents surrounding their upbringing as they do and for the majority of the novel must piece clues together independently.

Kathy is the novel’s protagonist – the story solely from her perspective. She is an observant being who soaks in her surroundings through deep analysis of the behaviours of those in her proximity. As such, she often prefers to take a backseat from the action.

Her relationship with Ruth (the book’s other predominant female) is fascinating and can best be described as fren-enemies. Ruth is more active, stubborn and decisive and this reflects on her expectations of others. She is often portrayed as the antagonist, and this becomes particularly evident in the love triangle between herself, Ruth and Tommy. It is only at the novel’s end that we realise time is the obstacle and society the villain. It is not the people, but the inevitabilities of life.

From the novel’s beginning, it is evident major secrets are being hidden from the children. There are vast and varied discussions by peripheral characters as to whether the children should be enlightened or not. As a reader, my initial thoughts screamed for the children to be told; I urged for the revelation of the secret shielded from them. It took until the book’s poignant conclusion to realise and understand Ishiguro’s alternate perspective on the purpose of maintaining the mystery.

Never Let Me Go is an unforgettable story, fed by Ishiguro’s visionary dystopian style. It is a book largely influenced by science fiction and the power (and danger) of hidden secrets. More so, the book teaches about relationships between people, their destruction and strengthening, and the extent to which both can be. The novel’s last words force a sense of gratitude for the existence of our own unlimited capabilities and options – the antithesis of the bound, gagged and restrictive existence endured by Ruth, Kathy and Tommy.

This book is one to be recommended, and has been on numerous occasions by myself. Never has any of these been disappointed, all engaged and entranced by the sharp writing, wonderful characterisation and unnerving attitude of Kazuo Ishiguro.


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