Book 24, and the final book (yes, I’m down two), in my challenge to read one book (I haven’t read before) a fortnight in 2012 is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
I didn’t do this on purpose, but it seems like I saved the best for last – Never Let Me Go is my favourite book I‘ve read this year.
Narrated by Kathy, Never Let Me Go is a collection of memories from her childhood, teen years and up to the present day – although we’re never quite sure when or where the present day is. This review will be a little vague, since I don’t want to spoil anything for future readers.
A large part of Kathy’s memories include her best friend Ruth, and Tommy, who went to school alongside the two of them and morphs from someone they mock to someone who comes to mean a great deal to both of them.
At the centre of Kathy’s story is Hailsham School, the boarding school where Kathy grew up with Ruth and Tommy. The school is there in every memory of Kathy’s, even when the stories she is telling are not set there.
Never Let Me Go does not have a conventional linear narrative. The Kathy we meet in the present is not moving from one point at the beginning of the novel to another at the end. Rather, the narrative we read is the beginning and middle of Kathy’s life, and it is up to us to figure out the end from what we are told.
Kathy’s stories unfold often because she has remembered something while driving from one job to the next, and she often talks to the reader while she is driving, or her stories involve driving from one place to another. She is constantly on a road to nowhere – a fitting metaphor for her life, and one that makes perfect sense once the secret at the centre of Never Let Me Go is unveiled.
Never Let Me Go is a haunting book, one that had me gripped from start to finish even though there was a sadness permeating every word and every tale Kathy told. Kathy’s fate, as Ruth and Tommy’s, is inevitable, yet I still found myself desperately hoping for some mad twist that would mean her life played out as I wanted to. That Ishiguro didn’t give me that respite was the reason that Never Let Me Go has haunted me and stayed with me, much like Kathy’s memories haunt her.