50 Books (9): Never Let Me Go // Kazuo Ishiguro

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Title: Never Let Me Go

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro

Outline: Never Let Me Go is a story about three friends, Kathy, the main narrator of the novel, Ruth and Tommy. It follows their journey through their lives, albeit short ones, as clones in a 1990s dystopian England. Although the personalities differ greatly between the three friends, they eventually find out they all have one awful thing in common – they are clones who have been created with the sole purpose of donating their organs for ‘real humans’.

The novel is split in to 3 parts, each which documents the major stages of the lives of the so-called ‘students’ of Hailsham school. This school, like many others of its kind, houses the students up to age 18 whilst also arguably over encouraging an ethos of creativity and respect for authority; all the while the students are painfully unaware of their true role in society.

Part 1 features the students’ school life and upbringing at Hailsham. At this moment of the novel it is rather unclear as to why the clones exist, not only for the readers but more so for students themselves; however, a full understanding of the subject still remains unclear to many, even when the novel ends. Within Part 1 we begin to understand the upsetting longing of the students to be accepted and loved, and the novel as a whole aids the quest in defining what really makes us human.

As the novel progresses, the characters learn much more of their vital position in society and this is when the true confliction of emotions held by characters becomes very clear. This helps readers to apprehend the extent of the students’ situation, and how harrowing the effects really are. In the second part of the novel the students are much older, and have been moved to communal living spaces known as ‘The Cottages’ where they are left to their own devices. At this point in the novel the students begin to question, are wholly confused of how society perceive them, and, perhaps more importantly, how they perceive themselves and each other.

Part 3 sees the novel come to a harrowing close; the organ donations loom hauntingly close and the bid to extend their lives becomes promising, but as always hope for change remains in short supply.

Highlights: Not only does this story raise issues on the ethics of human cloning, but readers are also able to view genuine human connections, despite the alleged inhumanity of the clones. For me, the fact that more humanity can be found in a product of science than products of nature is an alarming concept but nevertheless aids our understanding as readers of the relationship between science and society.

Additionally, the interactions between humans and the clones are especially poignant in this novel. Ishiguro nicely highlights the large-scale problem of isolating those who are different and how although society brags progressiveness, it is effectively human nature to fear diversity and contrast within society.

Why I Read It: I studied this text alongside Frankenstein for my AS Level English Literature course, therefore reading it was necessary. However, after a lot of in-depth evaluation of the text, I have developed an unquestionable love for this novel as I adore the fact that the wider message can be applied to so many situations in real life, despite the novel being of the dystopian genre.

Rating: 8/10. This novel is one with an upsetting and angering tale. It puts a spotlight on the ethics and practical issues surrounding cloning and the consequences of a societal indulgence in modern scientific advances, making it a very interesting read. A wide range of perspectives of the ongoing cloning debate are effectively ingrained within the novel. I would recommend this novel to everyone, especially those interested in the effects of obeying authority and the sticky relationship between humanity and science.

Don’t be put off by the fact this is a story about science, as it is so much more than that. At the heart of it, Never Let Me Go is a terrifying tale of crossing boundaries and stepping outside the unknown, in every aspect of the phrase.

Words by Georgia Hinson

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