Genres: Adult fiction, dystopia, science fiction.
From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.
Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.
Spoiler note: This review contains major spoilers.
Never Let Me Go is one of those books that is really hard for me to review. It’s quiet, understated, and I loved it but I find it difficult to say exactly why I did.
All I had known about the book prior to reading it was “students are trapped in an English boarding school and they’re never allowed to leave”. I thought this was going to be the most devastating part of it – a story about denial of freedom, but there was so much more to it than that, which I wasn’t expecting. The story switches between Kathy’s present and her storytelling of the past (actually, extremely reminiscent of Oryx and Crake…) and focuses on the relationship between her and her friends – Ruth and Tommy. You slowly begin to realise that they’re not exactly normal humans – they are cloned in order to provide organ donations and then they “complete”. I felt was a much more tragic than saying they “died”. It really highlights that their donations were really their only purpose. They had no careers except for being carers (before becoming donors), were unable to have children (and of course, did not have families). They “completed” so very young and essentially did not have the chance to live their lives.
A lot of focus was also placed on the relationship between Tommy and Kathy (and their love for each other) but this part of the story did not interest me as much as I did not find in particularly believable and therefore less heartbreaking than I expected it to be.
Overall, while I did not find the story as upsetting (i.e. I didn’t cry!) as much as other reviewers, it was still very tragic. I would have liked more information regarding the donations (e.g. who were they going to, what was the fourth donation, why was no one else doing anything to stop it) and why it never crossed the characters’ minds to rebel (something most reviewers will agree was hard to fathom) aside from various hints (like mentioning the electric fence, and the anger in Ruth’s outburst) because I found this to be much more interesting than the “love story”.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the story is portrayed in the movie version.
My Rating: ★★★★★