Kazuo Ishiguro‘s Never Let Me Go was published in April of 2005. Ishiguro is also the author of several books including The Remains of the Day, and When We Were Orphans. Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go centers on three characters – Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth. The intro into their stories is narrated by 31-year old Kathy describing her duties as a “carer” to her charges or “donors.” Since I have already seen the film, I already knew of whom, and what, she spoke of–but the book version of the tale allows for me to acknowledge the underlying subtly of hopelessness in her words. Ishiguro’s brilliant storytelling allow the reader to share in Kathy’s memories, as she often spoke in references about instances in her past; on an up until her role as carer. You instantly begin to get a sense on just how love and mortality are oftentimes solemn allies.
Kathy and the children attended an English academy, called Hailsham, for supremely lucky children. It was the best of all the schools just like it. But, as the story progresses, details as to the true purpose of Hailsham are revealed. The book allowed the lives and personalities of the children to be naive, as children often truly are. Even when the realities of their short lives are revealed to them by one of their “guardians,” or administrators that were charged to look after the children, whom disclosed to a classroom that they will never lead full lives. That their only purpose was to donate their organs to the people–the humans–that needed them. Thereafter, they will “complete.” Sometimes, some of them will “complete” much sooner than the others. Even when their sad realities of their short lives were revealed to them, they continue on, as children, never truly grasping the significance of the disclosure–the guardian, seemed disheartened by the children’s true faith.
After bitterly accepting the true premise of this dysmorphian tale, I truly appreciated where the film “fell short” on much of the more descriptives of the book–instead, director Romanek chose to depict the frailties of the relationships between Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth. Giving away almost too instantly, the true nature of their stay at Hailsham. I enjoyed how Ishiguro slowly and methodically revealed the underlying brevity of the characters. Choosing to reveal the personable aspects of their relationships–how they were rivals and lovers. The movie, I feel, gave too much away and yet held back too much.
It was amazing–how by reading Never Let Me Go, I appreciated how Ishiguro cleverly wrote the story to make it seem so familiar and so real. It is a shame that I knew what will occur in the book since I have seen the movie prior to reading–understood from the very beginning of how this sad tale would end. The film and book removes us from our own reality and yet, it rationalizes how by housing “partial humans” served to only satisfy humanity’s selfish purposes. Moreover, as a manner of “testing” the donors of Hailsham–teaching them art, poetry, pottery, as a way to classify “being human,” searching for their souls in their art work, may equate to humanity searching for something that they (the guardians) believe that only a human can possess.
Oddly beautiful, Never Let Me Go is not too far removed from today’s “donor” reality. In some aspects, we all could consider ourselves as “donors,” without the directive intentions of the book. Even as Ichiguro’s slowly revealed the truth about Hailsham, and the intimacies, love, and rivalries between Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy–made them even more human in character, than some of the “real human” characters in the book. Ishiguro afforded the trio, their sad, and very human-like realities of; humility, mortality, and hopelessness.