Even the best of readers might be put off by its plodding style—after all, Never Let Me Go does not seem to get off the ground as “normal” plots go. All we have is the voice of Kathy H., a sensitive narrator who addresses putative readers as her familiars, who takes us through the labyrinthine pathways of recollected memory. And do not expect to know substantial things about her even halfway through the book—questions of who she is, where she’s from, whose children they were, were deftly sidestepped to create an aura of mystery–information doled out is on a “need know” basis. Through the filter of Kathy H.’s memory (and after we struggle to make sense of seemingly trivial concerns), we learn that she, along with her best friends Ruth and Tommy, went to Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school in England that, apart from art and sports classes, offers not much by way of formal education. (“Sham” or fakery could rain like “hail”?) Afterwards, in their late adolescence, they were shunted off to a farm called the Cottages, a sort of a halfway house before they begin their lifelong “profession” of being carers, donors, or both.
Set in the late 1990’s (during which time biotechnology and applications promise a medical utopia), the narrative uses “donation”, “carer”, “deferral”, “possibles” and “complete” nonchalantly, Ishiguro expecting the readers to know the meaning, quite rightly, of these plain words, the shock of recognition to what they actually refer dawning on the readers near book’s end. Other familiar words, like “umbrella”, “find in Norfolk”, “snogging”, even, in fact, the word “students”, take on additional meanings with the progress of the story. Meaningful in its absence is the word clones mentioned only in the latter part, but which, as it turns out, is all the novel’s main characters. Some parts jump out:
But she just carried on: “We all know it. We’re modelled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren’t psychos. That’s what we come from. We all know it, so why don’t we say it? A woman like that? Come on … Do you think she’d have talked to us like that if she’d known what we really were? What do you think she’d have said if we’d asked her? `Excuse me, but do you think your friend was ever a clone model?’…. (166; italics in the original)
Why did we take your artwork? Why did we do that?You said an interesting thing earlier, Tommy. When you were discussing this with Marie-Claude. You said it was because your art would reveal what you were like. What you were like inside. That’s what you said, wasn’t it? Well, you weren’t far wrong about that. We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all.” (260; italics in the original)
Hellerung, Søren and Cecilie Skaarup. “Delusions: Memory and Identity in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Fiction.” Retrieved 14 April 2012. http://www.spanglefish.com/Beaminster/documents/delusions%20-%20Kazuo%20Ishiguros%20Fiction.pdf.