Thursday, 4 November 2010

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Hailsham seems like the typical English boarding school.  A big spacious building, wide open grounds and caring staff, teachers and guardians.  They receive a liberal arts education and are highly encouraged to produce 'works of art'.  What is unusual is  that no parents ever come to visit, nor do any of the students ever go 'home' for the weekend or holidays.

From a young age the students are told that they will become 'donors', whatever that might be.  They also learn that this will happen soon after they leave school and that they won't grow old and have the lives that they see depicted in the movies they watch.

I listened to this as an audio book and was hooked from the opening passages.  The book was read by Rosalyn Landor.  Her soothing voice was a perfect choice for this novel.  There were a number of difficult and troubling concepts introduced and having them presented by such a calming voice made them easier to believe.

Spoiler Alert

This book introduces a group of people who were created for the sole purpose of harvesting their organs so that others could live.  Their lives were not valued by a wider society, only their organs.  While I was grappling with the morality of  saving one life by ending another, the students had to deal with the knowledge that their lives would be ending just when they should be starting careers and building families.  Hailsham didn't teach them how to deal with that, in fact it didn't teach them much about life beyond being a student. Why bother when it wouldn't really be necessary for long; after all they'd be spending much of their remaining lives in one hospital or another.

This was an excellent, though difficult story to listen to.  When one considers that there are already children being conceived with the hopes that they will be a perfect match for an older sibling requiring a bone marrow transplant etc., this book becomes more than fiction; it poses a serious moral dilemma.  Have we crossed that line already; do allow doctors/parents to create a new life just to save an existing one.

Read an excerpt of Never Let Me Go
Cover photo from Random House Canada

Also reviewed at:
A More Diverse Universe

Read what Two Canadian Readers had to say about both the book and the screening of the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Books with cloning topics:

Perfect Copy: Unravelling the Cloning Debate by Nicolas Agar
Cloning Miranda by Carol Matas

This is my 16th book for the Read, Remember, Recommend Fiction Challenge hosted by  There is still time for you to join in the challenge. 


Anonymous said...

This sounds a bit like Chromosome Six, by Robin Cook.

I think it's actually in the middle of a series, but I don't think I read (or listened) to the prior books, and it was very good.

I also liked the movie The Island, with a similar plot.

~ Meagan

Heather said...

I don't know the book by Robin Cook, but will check it out.

Will do the same for the movie. Thanks for the tips.

Miri said...

I read this last year on my son's recommendation. It was very interesting and disturbing.

Paulina said...

Enjoyed your review. I also thought the audiobook version was very good.

Ellen said...

I just finished this book yesterday. I thought the concept was really interesting, thought the way Ishiguro wrote it was interesting (to have this sort of story told in such a staid fashion, and mostly through the relations of these three students who accept the facts of their lives without much question, is a pretty cool choice), but something about the style didn't click with me. I think he wrote it SO much in the narrator's voice that there were certain tics (which we ALL use when we're talking, like "I remember..." or "at the time...") that started to grate on me. But like you write, the book poses some interesting/unnerving questions.