Reading guide for Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is on the 2005 Booker Prize shortlist. As Ishiguro won the Booker in 1989, his nomination here isn’t a compelling endorsement; the judges like to reward their favorite authors based on their past accomplishments rather than their most recent work.
Never Let Me Go is written in an unrelenting confessional voice using a limited vocabulary. It was only after at the halfway mark, when I put the book down to find something else to read, did I realize that the “students” of the story, including the narrator, were intellectual simpletons. Oh, of course there is the whole being-cloned-for-their-vital-organs thing, but that is just so much window dressing.

Forget what you might read about this being a science fiction story. The organ donor stuff is just a plot device, one that could have been replaced with “having children” or “experiencing the death of a loved one”. As a device, it is used to create tension between the three main characters, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. But since these characters are all simpletons, none of them have the emotional depth to react to their situation in a compelling way. This makes things difficult for the reader, having to find motivatation to finish a book that lacks a compelling story.
If you are looking for the idiot speech, it begins around page 260. In science fiction stories, the idiot speech traditionally comes at the beginning of the story. In superhero stories, the idiot speech is delivered by the villain before the climax of the story. Here we have the superhero structure, except in this story the heroes are ineffectual.
Never Let Me Go is bland and harmless. Hopefully too bland to win the Booker.

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One Response to “Reading guide for Never Let Me Go
  1. djb says:

    Brandon, glad to see your work! Hope you are well. Send me an email. I’d like to hear from you.