Life has been getting in the way of a lot of things recently for me. One of those things has been reading, which has further been discouraging me from writing. After all, my blogs are more or less based around books, and ideas I’ve gotten from books. As I’ve been doing less of this than is normal (especially considering the fact that I study English in college), ideas have been bouncing around, but not exactly getting anywhere.
I think that is why when I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go it had such a great impact on me. I was craving something to read; something that wouldn’t just be a normal book that would entertain and grip me – but something that would envelope me inside its world and let me wallow in it.
Never Let Me Go was exactly what I needed. Set in what at first appears to be a 1990s British boarding school, the novel takes a twisted turn as we realise that there is something much more sinister at play here. This is not a normal boarding school. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are not normal children, and as they progress into adulthood we become all the more aware of the futility of their lives.
The novel isn’t just a sad novel; nor are these people just characters. It’s not just anything. Instead, it succeeds in being everything from every genre, with the beauty of some of the most complex characters I have ever read in literature.
What makes Never Let Me Go particularly devastating is the harsh reality of growing up that we see for Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. With each passing day and moment, they lose a shred of their innocence. Life reveals itself as a cruel, passionless and empty beast, ready to strike at any time.
This is what made this novel so emotional for me; as a coming-of-age story, it highlights the sadness of growing up. As I have gotten older, I have realised that not everything is perfect. While I like to have an idealistic notion of my future, what Never Let Me Go is so successful in achieving is the concept of loss, in all of its forms. Human loss, loss of innocence and a gradual ebb of the beauty of life all pervade in this novel. It is in this that Ishiguro is most successful – in his incredibly perceptive observation that no matter who you are, or what your life is about, you will have to face loss at some point.
Ishiguro’s novel is also one of immense beauty; his writing is startling, and leaves the reader feeling breathless and terrified for the characters that we come to love. One of the most exhilarating aspects of the novel is his constant use of the imagery of people locked in embrace, echoing the title in all of its immensity. At the novel’s most emotionally heightened moments, people embrace as tightly as they can – and the song from the fictional Judy Bridgewater Never let me go, oh baby, baby never let me go echoes in our minds.
The significance of the title is something rare to encounter in a novel like this. However reading Never Let Me Go, the title is something that constantly rang in my head, sometimes accompanied by a vision of Kathy and Tommy locked in an iron embrace in a field, and sometimes with the soft, crooning voice I can imagine Judy Bridgewater would have had, as she begged her baby to never let her go.
Ishiguro’s novel can be described as a terrible beauty. Laced with pessimism, there are moments of great clarity and exhilarating, sweeping beauty. I suppose the best way to sum up Never Let Me Go is that it makes you feel Kathy and Tommy’s embrace, as they grip each other more tightly than anyone can ever be gripped. It is one of the finest and most memorable novels I have ever read, and I know that it will stick with me forever – well into old age – and I’ll remember it constantly, and occasionally hear that line of baby, baby, never let me go echoing down the hallway.