Never Let Me Go

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.