Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a dystopian, slightly science fiction novel that takes place in England in the late 1990s. It is narrated in what feels very stream-of-conscious by a 31 year old woman named Kathy H., who is remembering her child and young adulthood at a boarding school called Hailsham. She narrates the way that I often talk–she has an initial point, but the details of narrative are built into the back story she provides while getting to that point. Her narration has a deep tone of nostalgia and it is clear from the beginning that she is trying to make sense of what her life has become and the fate she knows she cannot avoid. It is this tension that drives the book: the hope that the truth somehow didn’t apply to the characters.
What I have been considering since I finished the book is how do we, as people, handle the truths about life that we accumulate along the way, especially the ones we do not wish to believe, not matter how confident we are of their existence?
One of the most poignant moments of the book for me was when another character, Tommy, faces the reality of his situation. He is in a car with Kathy, and asks her to pull over. He walks into the woods at the side of the road and screams his lungs out. The injustice of reality is too much for him to bear, and he can think of no other way to respond.
Later, it appears that Tommy and Kathy have succumbed to the “safety” of knowing what is inevitable. Perhaps they feel foolish for ever wishing existence to be more. Kathy repeatedly talks about their knowing when they were children at Hailsham, but they just went right on playing and pretending.
When does it become naive and adolescent to fight what is bound to happen? Are there certain realities that can be fought?
Is it ok to accept what is? What do we do with the angst that remains? Live a life with trips to an isolated wood so we can scream our lungs out about it?
(Don’t continue reading if you plan on reading the book or seeing the movie. All conclusions drawn so far are thought provoking without the ending. But I had such a strong opinion of the ending that it is impossible for me not to write about it). My biggest disappointment in the book is that the characters don’t fight (very hard, anyway). I wanted to see them rise and buck authority and defy the life that was set for them, but instead they got angry and then settled into sadness and nostalgia. The book is ironically called, then, Never Let Me Go…but they do. And I kind of hate that.