Review On The Book “Never Let Me Go”
When I was first introduced to this story in the form of a movie back in 2010, I assumed the story only revolved around three friends Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, and the love triangle that takes place between the three of them. I thought the theme to be a coming of age story, and that there was nothing more to it. However, I was proven wrong when I picked up the book for the first time this June. Towards the end of the novel, I was devastated to realise what Kazuo Ishiguro may have tried to hint at, was that in the world this story takes place, no amount of hope will change the fate of the lives of these individuals who were brought up at Hailsham. The life that was gifted to them belonged to Hailsham and its cruel dictatorship. Much like the lives of Bangladeshis that belong to the persistently oppressive government, where there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, and the chaos seems to live on forever.
If I were asked about the characters I thought to be the key movers of the plot line, the first name I would take would be Kathy H. Let’s face it, a novel that starts with, “My name is Kathy H.” is a dead giveaway that this character will have quite a lot to contribute to the storyline, and so she does. She is the narrator of the story, it is through her eyes we see the plot unfold. The second key mover would be Tommy D, not because of his infamous skill of throwing tantrums, but because of the conversation he has with Kathy by the pond in chapter three. He reveals to Kathy why his demeanor changed all of a sudden, this makes Kathy start questioning everything a lot more than she used to before. The third and final key mover of the storyline, according to my judgement, would undoubtedly be Miss Lucy. Though her ideologies are met with zero tolerance by Miss Emily, resulting in Miss Lucy getting fired early on in the book, the conversation she has with Tommy D, where she tells him that it’s okay to not be creative, changes Tommy entirely. It somehow manages to mellow Tommy down. This sparks curiosity amongst his peers, and a search for the truth begins.
As the story progresses, I found myself intrigued by Madame Marie-Claude’s character. She is first introduced as the lady who occasionally visits Hailsham and leaves with the best artwork of the clones. Her “Gallery” is mentioned multiple times throughout the book, it is where their artwork is believed to be displayed. One confrontation with her convinces the clones that Madame is disgusted by their very existence. It is later revealed that she fights for the clones to be treated humanely, and that the purpose of her displaying their artwork is to make the outside world believe clones have souls too. At one point in the novel, Kazuo even dares to tell us that Madame Marie-Claude went into debt trying to keep Hailsham open. Somewhat similar to the characteristics of an anti-hero, by the end of the novel, we are left questioning Madame’s motives behind doing what she did. How can someone shudder at the idea of coming in contact with clones, but at the same time, love them so deeply to have risk it all to ensure a care facility, such as Hailsham, for them?
Though we get a glimpse into the friendship of Kathy and Ruth in the very first chapter, as they grow up together, it can be assumed that Kathy has unconsciously accepted Ruth as her constant. She joins in on the laughter when Ruth jokes about Tommy’s drawings, even when Kathy thinks they are quite beautiful. She also sets her feelings for Tommy aside when she realises Ruth has developed feelings for Tommy as well. Moreover, whenever Kathy and Ruth gets into a fight, Kathy often becomes the pushover and doesn’t stand her ground. When Ruth begins her donations, she confesses that she kept Kathy and Tommy apart intentionally and tries to convince them to apply for a deferral. The toxic relationship Kathy and Ruth share at the beginning of the novel, evolves into one with more acceptance and understanding towards the end.
The part of the story that I loved the most was when Kathy recalls Tommy finding her with a stash of pornographic magazines, and then proceeds to advise Kathy on how to enjoy them properly. Little does Tommy know, Kathy doesn’t care about anything that’s beneath the face of the models. Kathy had an inkling that they were cloned from prostitutes and junkies, hence she often skimmed through these magazines in hopes of finding the original version of herself. On the other hand, the part that bothered me the most sort of existed throughout the entire story, it is the fact that the fate of these individuals was decided from the moment they were cultivated. There was no running away from donations, there was no running away from a life that was anything but the bearer of dreams.
To end this review, I’m leaving three of my favorite quotes from the book and brief explanations of why I deem them as favorites.
“We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.”
This quote tugged at my heartstrings, made me abhor Kazuo Ishiguro for completely nullifying the point of these clones donating in the first place. The main idea behind cultivating clones is to cheat death by accepting donations from them, and ensuring longevity of the general population. But after reading this line, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the clones really needed to be subjected to such a brutal donation process in the first place, when the receiver is destined to eventually face death as well.
“All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.”
This line spoke to me. I had a very troubled childhood, grew up in a dysfunctional family, and often found asking myself if I were brought up inside a bubble, with my parents trying to hide the fact that they were in an unhappy marriage, and keeping all the loud, brutal confrontations out of my eyesight, would I have turned out differently? A little less pessimistic, and a bit happier, perhaps?
“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart.”
For me, this portrayed the cycle of life. People come and go; while some choose to stay, others leave. We shed skins, grow out of the company we keep, because we constantly change. The people we couldn’t imagine life without, sometimes end up being the very people we cannot imagine a life with. It’s a sad reality, but it is what it is.
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