Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
published 2005. read synopsis.
First I watched the film and ever since, this story had been deeply embedded inside my mind.
And then I read the novel.
Before I begin talking about the book, I just want to quickly say that I think the movie was excellent and did a fantastic job capturing the world inside Never Let Me Go. Yes, some things weren't exactly represented accurately from book to film, and I might think differently about this when I watch the movie over again. But for right now, I love the film. I truly, truly believe that Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield were brilliantly cast in their roles.
Ok, now the book.
I am dumbfounded by Kazuo Ishiguro's writing. Never Let Me Go is one of the best written pieces of literature I have ever read in my lifetime. The way the story was written, the way the author wielded his words, and the way the language spoke in a voice so distinct that I couldn't hear the author at all, but only and solely Kathy's voice - these are all reasons why this book is one of the best written books I've read. The story is told in way that greatly warrants the book to be read aloud. I was trying to hear the words as spoken by Carey Mulligan (her voiceovers in the movie were so excellent and I love her voice in general) and I was tempted to buy an audio book version of the novel online. Kathy H, the narrator, told the story as if she and I were having tea together one afternoon. I can't even articulate properly how much I love the way this story is written. I would buy the book for this factor alone.
The story is set in an alternate England, in the 1990's. Nothing really explicitly informs the reader of the science fiction elements, but it's just accepted and integrated seamlessly into Kathy's narration. Hailsham is the institution at which Kathy H. grew up... along with an untold number of other clone children. These 'students' are conditioned for a certain lifestyle: to be raised up at Hailsham and educated there until the age of sixteen, then move out from the school to cottages around England where they will encounter other clones as well as humans and the real world. After a few years at the cottages, they'll begin training to become a carer. Carers look after donors, which will be the last stage of their life. Once a carer has gotten their notice, they'll become a donor and will start undergoing operations to give their vital organs away, one at a time, until they die ("complete"). Donors often complete after their third donation. Sometimes they last longer, and sometimes they complete earlier. They never have the chance to grow old.
Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are the main characters. They have quite a complicated relationship between one other, and being what they are surely don't make things any simpler. Kathy and Ruth were friends first. Then Kathy and Tommy became friends. Then Ruth and Tommy became involved romantically. During which all three remained friends. Well, actually I should say 'during which Kathy remained friends with both of them' - I never believed Ruth and Tommy were true friends, at least not in the same degree of friendship that each had with Kathy.
I'm really not sure what to think of the feelings Kathy, Ruth and Tommy had for each other. Even though I feel like Kathy told her story completely, she gave me quite a hazy, obscure impression of what the true feelings were between her and Tommy, and Ruth and Tommy. I know that she loved Ruth, and vice versa, even though Ruth was seriously sociopathic and acted psycho at times. But she never once expressed romantic feelings for Tommy, neither externally or internally. I suppose it's a sort of read-between-the-lines situation there. The same goes for Tommy's feelings for Kathy as well as Ruth. When Ruth and Tommy were together there was no mention of love, yet when Kathy and Tommy finally got together the only time love was mentioned when Tommy was telling Kathy he didn't want her around for his fourth donation. He said, "It's a shame, Kath, because we loved each other all our lives."
I don't know why I like this book so much. I think it was the way the story was told. Kathy's narration. The writing. The heartbreak of it all. Let me tell you, there is a lot of heartbreak in there. It's a sad, tragic story, and yet somehow not very emotional. It's just the way the story was told. If it were told in a different way, I might have cried a million times throughout my reading of it. But in this case, the story is told how it is, and though I didn't cry when I read it, it left me in awe, it left me in a pool of thoughts and bewilderment. About the human soul, life, existence, relationships, and the significance of it all, I suppose.
I will always remember this book, and the way Madame saw Kathy in her dorm room listening to that Judy Bridgewater song Never Let Me Go, Kathy swaying to the music, clutching a pillow tightly in her arms, and the way Kathy turned and caught Madame staring at her, tears in her eyes, heart crumbling.