Friday, August 19, 2005

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is not classified as a mystery, but it is very mysterious. I was listening to the second of eight compact discs before I began to understand the situation of the story.

The book starts with a short chapter in which Kathy H., the narrator, tells a little about being a carer for longer than anyone else she knows and about how she is now allowed sometimes to choose the donors for whom she cares. Most carers become donors after two or three years, but she is such a good carer, she has been allowed to stay one for over ten years. She is very tired. She will be retiring soon.

Then Kathy begins to tell about her years at Heilsham, a boarding school in the rural England, where the guardians were very keen to teach the arts to the students. It was very important to be able to draw well. The guardians were always taking the best drawings from the students for Madame's gallery, but Tommy never had one chosen. Tommy had other problems and sometimes had to be separated from the other students.

Ruth was Kathy's other close friend. She remembers the first time Ruth allowed her to join in her private games on the playground, the many disagreements they had, and how they always seemed to be drawn to each other, despite several serious betrayals.

I happened to be deep into Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when I started listening to Never Let Me Go. In both, students attended classes, ate together, and started "snogging" in their teenage years, but in Ishiguro's new book, the students never received mail. They had no idea what lay outside school grounds, except for what the guardians told them. They could not go past the poplars on the hill or the rhubarb patch past the playing field until they graduated and were sent to the cottages to wait for their assignments.

Ishiguro is a very talented writer. In Never Let Me Go, he is able to introduce some very large ethical questions without spelling them out. He takes what seems to be ordinary life in contemporary times and twists recent history. His story makes readers think about the
implications of a new, not-so-impossible situation long before he ever reveals the answers to the mysteries. I think Never Let Me Go would be an excellent book for discussions.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. New York: Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1400043395

Compact discs version. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape, 2005. ISBN 1415916292

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