Never Let Me Go

In an alternative post-World War II England, 3 friends attend boarding school where they are treated as “special” to the outside world.

SPOILERS: Through interminable remembered conversations and the tedious minutiae of life at school, the reader slowly begins to understand that the children at Hailsham school are being prepared for a strange destiny. Narrated by one of the three young people, Kathy H., their secrets are revealed: everyone at Hailsham is actually a clone bred to provide organs for donation to “real” people.  When they can no longer donate, they die. 

Although billed as science fiction, Never Let Me Go is closer to The Chrysalids by John Wyndham than to Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The novel could be characterized as “alternative history with a message”, which is fine by me. But to draw the story out in a gossipy, excruciatingly detailed narrative…..! The type of narrative where an event occurs in 2 pages but Kathy H. thinking about it takes a full chapter!  To be honest, I started skimming about a third of the way into the book and by the end, did I even care that they were clones destined to expire saving others? Not at all!

I think it was A.J. Casson, famous member of the Group of Seven painters, who said that when he was starting out in his career, he carefully copied each leaf of the tree into his painting.  With more experience, he realized that he could get better results by “suggesting” the many leaves with fewer but more skillful strokes. Mr. Ishiguro painted every leaf and leaf bud with—in my opinion—unnecessary detail: I couldn’t see the tree for the leaves!

I’m thinking this one fares better in the movie version….

5 out of 10.