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.
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 Bibliobabe.com. There is still time for you to join in the challenge.