Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro, Kazuo. 2005. Never Let Me Go. 288.

My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That'll make it almost exactly twelve years.

Sounds like a confession, doesn't it? Like she's apologizing for being alive. And in a way, that's true, I suppose. Because although it's set in England in the late 1990s, the novel is anything but realistic fiction. No, the world created by Kazuo Ishiguro is frighteningly surreal. Kathy--and others like her--exist for one reason, and one reason only. But I suppose some won't want to go there. To know the ending before they've got acquainted with the beginning.

Kathy, our narrator, is reflecting back on her life--her childhood, her teen years, her young adult years before, during, and after "becoming" a carer. For most of that time, she had a secluded life, a privileged life considering the truth of the matter, in a boarding school called Hailsham. The book is about her life and her relationships. Primarily the book is about her relationships with two people: Ruth and Tommy.

Never Let Me Go is a good example of the distinction between adult and young adult fiction. Though the book is about teenagers--Kathy and friends--the book is for adults. It's tone is reflective, contemplative, distant. It never felt like a child was telling the story. Or a teen. The perspective was all grown up, all the time. (Then again, I think you'd grow up pretty fast if this was your reality.)

And this distance serves a purpose, mostly. Kathy is a strange narrator, an odd woman, a woman eerily comfortable with the truth: what has happened to her friends, her acquaintances, everyone 'like' her... and what will happen to her in the days, weeks, and months ahead. It's hard to know just what is the most disturbing in this book--the truth itself or the fact that there is no reaction, no horror at the truth. The matter-of-factness of it all. The cold acceptance.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews