In Never Let Me Go, author Kazuo Ishiguro deals with questions of loss and mortality that each of us must eventually confront. Through the fictional story of three classmates from a unique boarding school, the author reflects on the boundaries of our finite lives and how we attach meaning to our limited existence when things once familiar to us disappear. As we get older and lose our friends and family, changes come into our lives. We cling to our memories of how things used to be and try to find comfort through them. Similarly the protagonist deals with identical issues as she recounts the disjointed memories that comprise her life. Sorting through her memories, she finds comfort in her friends and her career, eventually coming to terms with the meaning of her life and her ultimate fate.
The characters in Never Let Me Go are vibrant, and grow in unexpected ways. Ishiguro’s masterful use of memory gives the novel an added gravity and momentum. The prose is simple and elegant. A vivid and heartbreaking book, the narrative is so controlled and well-paced that the shock of emotion doesn’t even start to set in until readers are about to finish the book or even a day or two later. There is no sentimentality whatsoever, which makes the punch so much more painful.
But there is also beauty and redemption in the story. The best stories are indeed the ones that are the least obvious.
Perhaps this is why this book was on Time magazine’s 2005 list of the 100 greatest English language books since the magazine formed in 1923. Never Let Me Go was the most recently published book on the list.