A few days ago I finished reading “Never Let Me Go” by “Kazuo Ishiguro”. I basically flew through it and completed in just one and a half day. This book has a special place in my heart. It had this place even before I had read it. That’s why I have decided to talk about it.
It was my best friend who had recommended me Never Let Me Go many years back. Although our taste in books were a slight bit different but we always discussed them with each other. But this time what he had suggested was a dystopian/alternate history kind of book mixed with a little bit of sci-fi, and these are the genres I am most less interested in, so I had moved it in my TBR instead of reading it instantly. Never Let Me Go was his favourite book of all time. It could change in future, he had told me, but at that point it was his favourite. Well he never got the time to change it. My friend passed away in May 2016 and he has left me his copy of it.
This book, as I have mentioned earlier, is kind of set in an alternate historical setup. We follow the story of Kathy and her two friends Ruth and Tommy. The story is told from 31 years old Kathy’s perspective who is a carer and she basically tells us about her growing up at a British boarding school called “Hailsham” and later on at the “cottages” and then as a carer. Ever since the start you can feel that this school and these children aren’t anything typical. Firstly, all of these children are what appears to be ‘orphan’. They don’t have parents. Secondly, Hailsham puts too much importance at maintaining good health of its students and also at their creativity. So from the beginning you kind of know there is something strange going around. And then when you finally get the blow at around the middle of the book about what it is, it isn’t really a blow actually. You have known it from the start.
I have never been interested in dystopian and science fiction. I have developed a bias about them that they can’t represent real life. I know I have been missing out a lot of good stuff (Margaret Atwood, for example. I am kind of ashamed to admit that I haven’t read anything by her till now. I will surely change this in near future. I haven’t read Frankenstein too. There I said it.) because of this misconception of mine that science fiction and dystopian are just fast-paced action-packed genres. I fully know this is utterly wrong but we all have our prejudices, don’t we! So when I was first told to read this book I obviously threw it in the “later to be read” pile. I regret this now. Never Let Me Go is far from being a science fiction. Had I read it earlier I could have discussed it with my friend. This is a kind of book that leaves you in a trance for sometime after reading. When this trance is over you just want to talk about it with someone. I loved this book through and through. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2005 and I can clearly see why. It has got a lot of layers and I have a lot to say about it but I obviously can’t over here because I don’t want to spoil it for anybody who hasn’t read it and is interested in doing so.
All the three main characters are quite unlikable. Ruth appears to be the one who is most irritating. We get Kathy’s point of view because she is the narrator but even she is pretty unlikable. And Tommy too gets on your nerves sometimes. But these are the reasons why I loved the book even more. Human beings are always flawed and the flaws of the characters just give them some dimensions.
Ishiguro’s prose is crisp. The language is not too far fetched. It’s quite simple actually but it has got depth. It’s beautiful. He constructs his scenes in such a way that they stay with you forever. There is an instance in the book where young Kathy is in her dorm dancing to a song whose lyrics goes like this: baby, baby, never let me go. She is holding a pillow to her chest and imagines that it is a child and that she is a woman who had earlier been told that she couldn’t conceive a child but she did conceive anyhow and now she is afriad that something will happen to it. So she is clinging to her baby singing “baby, baby, never let me go”. It was such a beautiful scene it just melted my heart.
I will leave you with a beautiful excerpt from the book to give you a taste of it. Cheers!
That same night, trying to get to sleep in an overnight, I kept thinking about something that had happened to me a few days earlier. I’d been in a seaside town in North Wales. It had been raining hard all morning, but after lunch, it had stopped and the sun had come out a bit. I was walking back to where I’d left my car, along one of those long straight seafront roads. There was hardly anyone else about, so I could see an unbroken line of wet paving stones stretching on in front of me. Then after a while a van pulled up, maybe thirty yards ahead of me, and a man got out dressed as a clown. He opened the back of the van and took out a bunch of helium balloons, about a dozen of them, and for a moment, he was holding the balloons in one hand, while he bent down and rummaged about in his vehicle with the other. As I came closer, I could see the balloons had faces and shaped ears, and they looked like a little tribe, bobbing in the air above their owner, waiting for him.
Then the clown straightened, closed up his van and started walking, in the same direction I was walking, several paces ahead of me, a small suitcase in one hand, the balloons in the other. The seafront continued long and straight, and I was walking behind him for what seemed like ages. Sometimes I felt awkward about it, and I even thought the clown might turn and say something. But since that was the way I had to go, there wasn’t much else I could do. So we just kept walking, the clown and me, on and on along the deserted pavement still wet from the morning, and all the time the balloons were bumping and grinning down at me. Every so often, I could see the man’s fist, where all the balloon strings converged, and I could see he had them securely twisted together and in a tight grip. Even so, I kept worrying that one of the strings would come unravelled and a single balloon would sail off up into that cloudy sky.
Lying awake that night after what Roger had told me, I kept seeing those balloons again. I thought about Hailsham closing, and how it was like someone coming along with a pair of shears and snipping the balloon strings just where they entwined above the man’s fist. Once that happened, there’d be no real sense in which those balloons belonged with each other any more. When he was telling me the news about Hailsham, Roger had made a remark, saying he supposed it wouldn’t make so much difference to the likes of us any more. And in certain ways, he might have been right. But it was unnerving, to think things weren’t still going on back there, just as always; that people like Miss Geraldine, say, weren’t leading groups of Juniors around the North Playing Field.