‘Never let me go’ is a wonderful but gruesome novel. Not gruesome because of any explicit gore — far from it. The book is written with a simplicity that has a quiet and understated beauty, much like the English countryside in which the story is set. The horror of the subject matter is all beneath the surface. The gentlest of clues are used to set the reader’s imagination on edge. It is a sad and harrowing tale, and it makes compelling reading.
Ishiguro’s novel is, in some senses, a ‘science fiction’, although its literary style and focus on human psychology is far removed from the conventions of popular sci-fi. Like much of Margaret Atwood’s work, this book takes off from a premise about the implications of science for humanity, but there is no preoccupation with technology. One of the beauties of Ishiguro’s writing is the way he suggests an alternative reality without labouring to explain it, trusting his readers to imagine what has only been implied — or trusting them to wait in suspense.
If you have not read the book, I recommend it to you highly, and suggest that you stop reading this article here. What follows is not so much a review of the book as a meditation on some of its implications. The article will be better if you have read the book, and the book will be better if you haven’t read the article.
Above: Cover of the 2006 Faber and Faber paperback edition of ‘Never let me go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, first published in 2005.