…I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it…
One could very easily and correctly refer to Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go, as dystopian. But where other dystopian novels focus on the dystopia, Ishiguro’s novel uses the dystopia as a backdrop for a powerful human story and focuses on three characters, their childhood and coming of age.
The environment in which Ruth, Kathy and Tommy grow up is not as everything appears both to them and the reader. The reader only knows what Kathy, the narrator, knows and discovers throughout the novel. It’s difficult to write about the novel without spoilers; however, my preference is to do that because, for me, the novel was much more than simply how society might possibly go or have already gone awry. It’s also much more than having answers revealed to the questions the children have as they grow up. There is more depth to the story than just a warning as to where the world is headed that is usually embedded somewhere in dystopian novels. One aspect of the novel that differentiates it from the plethora of other novels of this type is that the setting is around the early 1980’s as opposed to the future – giving me the idea that a warning isn’t the top priority for Ishiguro.
As a narrator, Kathy is emotionally guarded, both with her friends and the reader, but this makes her one of the more intriguing narrators I’ve experienced in a while. Her feelings and inner thoughts are exposed a little at a time making me suddenly realize how much I care about this character and her friends. In her reflections of her childhood, there is a sadness that doesn’t just come from the dystopian backdrop. For me, it was a sadness that many reflective people might have in looking back at a childhood regardless of whether it was a happy one or not. Her memories become the plot; however, they never cease being memories.