Never Let Me Go [best served cold]


I’m going to be brief here, because everyone should have the pleasure of reading this book without knowing a lick about it.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a tricky book to talk about. I didn’t know anything about it when I cracked into it, and 100 pages later I probably would have called it a coming-of-age story about three kids in an English boarding school. And at that point, it wasn’t super gripping, as far as coming-of-age novels go.

Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are students at Hailsham, which seems to be a campus set in the country. They take classes, have spats, play sports, make art, gossip, throw temper tantrums, develop loyalty and personality quirks. Kathy and Tommy are confidantes, Kathy and Ruth are toxic best friends, and when they get older, Ruth and Tommy are a couple.

The only hints that this book is more than what is on the surface: the terms “donor” and “carer” and some strange exchanges with their guardians: older women who break out of stoic character just long enough to impart a nugget of impassioned wisdom. The former I assumed were quirky Euro-phrases like “bangers” or “the loo” or “fanny.” But the latter was hard to ignore.

Even calling it science fiction feels a little bit like a spoiler, but kind of a necessary spoiler. I’m not sure I would have kept reading if I hadn’t known there was more to this story. The friend rifts that serve to carry the plot [and as a distraction from what’s actually going on, I’d guess] run a little thin.

Ishiguro is so perfectly stingy with details, right up to the end. So I guess I will be, too.

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