A book about memory, acceptance and friendship, Never Let Me Go tells the story of a 31 years-old woman as she reflects on her life. It is told from her perspective, in the first person, in a casual, chatty way, with phrases such as 'Like I said...' interspersed throughout, as any storyteller would. She describes herself as a 'carer' of people who have donated organs to others and now, after almost twelve years, she is giving up the job.
The title of the book comes from a song of the same name, which evokes memories of her idyllic childhood at a boarding school. It was there where she met her two closest friends and they shared their formative years. The usual features of growing up like bullying, hierarchy, mystery, friendship dynamics and fun were there, as well as lessons where art and creativity were encouraged. However, there are hints that this school is not like the others as are the children. There are clues that they don't quite understand and when they are eventually told what their purpose is, it is buried under sex education lessons, so the impact loses its edge. As one teacher (or 'guardians' as they are known) says, they were 'told and not told' so when the children work out what their fate is, they feel as if they already know.
This is quite an horrific story in two main ways. There is no gore and the characters move from childhood to adulthood without any sense of doom or depression. Their fate in itself is disturbing and terrifying and yet they accept it as their lot. In other books of this type (the idea of their purpose is not an original idea) the characters rebel in some way: here they don't. They know that their lives will be short and that's how it is.
The little drips of information condition the characters throughout their school days, just as people become accustomed to their place in the world in terms of social class, race and gender by the accepted social norms. The central character deals with the loss of her past life, the innocence and her friends, by the power of memory and the odd things that each of them remembers or forgets. A haunting and chilling book that leaves a little bruise. A very clever and apt title. Yes.
*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available to preorder*
One of the most acclaimed novels of the 21st Century, from the Nobel Prize-winning author
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Published by Faber and Faber on 9 January 2010 this edition by Airside. Originally published 5 April 2005.
Promotional review copy supplied by the publisher.