Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

3 November 2006 by Simon Florentin Adjatan Lectures 0

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Book cover

All children should believe they are special. But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny. Kazuo Ishiguro’s sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, is a masterpiece of indirection. Like the students of Hailsham, readers are "told but not told" what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own.

Offsetting the bizarreness of these revelations is the placid, measured voice of the narrator, Kathy H., a 31-year-old Hailsham alumna who, at the close of the 1990s, is consciously ending one phase of her life and beginning another. She is in a reflective mood, and recounts not only her childhood memories, but her quest in adulthood to find out more about Hailsham and the idealistic women who ran it. Although often poignant, Kathy’s matter-of-fact narration blunts the sharper emotional effects you might expect in a novel that deals with illness, self-sacrifice, and the severe restriction of personal freedoms. As in Ishiguro’s best-known work, The Remains of the Day, only after closing the book do you absorb the magnitude of what his characters endure.

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Kazuo Ishiguro

The Author : Kazuo Ishiguro (ƒJƒYƒI EƒCƒVƒOƒ Kazuo Ishiguro, originally Î •ˆê-Y Ishiguro Kazuo, born November 8, 1954) is a British author of Japanese origin. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and his family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor’s degree from University of Kent in 1978 and his Master’s from the University of East Anglia in 1980. He now lives in London with his wife and daughter.

He won the Whitbread Prize in 1986 for his second novel An Artist of the Floating World, and the Booker Prize in 1989 for his third, The Remains of the Day (ISBN 0-679-73172-5).

His other novels include A Pale View of Hills, The Unconsoled, When We Were Orphans, and his most recent book Never Let Me Go. The latter two books were both short-listed for the Booker Prize, with Never Let Me Go named the runner-up.

In 2005, Time Magazine released its 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.

Plot summary

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The novel tells us about the abnormal childhood of Kathy H., pivoting around a strange boarding school, and eventually the narration explores her adult life. The entire narrative takes place in a dystopian late 20th century Britain, a place where humans are cloned outside the public eye to provide necessary organs for unhealthy individuals. As with Ishiguro’s other works, the author is primarily focused on developing complex characters with transparent emotions.

The novel is divided in three parts, chronicling the three phases of the lives of its main characters.

The first part is set in Hailsham, a boarding school where the children are brought up and educated. The teachers mysteriously encourage the students to produce various forms of art. The best works are chosen by a woman known only as Madame and are said to be collected in a gallery.

While the students of Hailsham are often cliquey, capricious and cruel, the three main characters - Ruth, Tommy and Kathy - develop a stable friendship during this time.

Kathy is the first person narrator of the story; she is a rather shy girl with some romantic dreams of becoming a mother when she grows up, even if she already knows this to be impossible. Tommy is an isolated boy who has difficulty in relating to others and is often the target of bullies. Ruth is an extroverted girl with strong opinions.

In the second part the characters, now grown to young adults, move to the Cottages, residential complexes where they start to have contacts with the external world and they are relatively free to do what they want. A romantic relation starts between Ruth and Tommy, while Kathy explores her sexuality but without forming any stable relationship.

The third part describes the characters becoming donors (Tommy and Ruth) and carers (Kathy). Kathy takes care first of Ruth and then, after she completes (that is, dies), of Tommy. Encouraged by Ruth’s last wishes, Kathy and Tommy go to visit Madame, where they also meet their old headmistress. At this time, they learn why artistic production had always been emphasized at Hailsham: the teachers wanted to prove that the clones have souls and thus improve their condition in society. The clones learn that Hailsham was only one of many such schools operating throughout the country and that conditions were better there than at any other school. The teachers failed in their attempts to make the clones palatable to society, and Hailsham was closed down. The novel closes, after the death of Tommy, on a note of sad resignation.

The novel’s name comes from a song on an American cassette tape that Kathy bought during a swap meet-type event at Hailsham. Thinking that it was song from a mother to a baby, Kathy liked to dance around holding a pillow and crooning "baby, never let me go". She once saw Madame watching her with a sad expression and assumed that she shared the song’s sad feelings. Much later, she asked Madame about it and learned that her sad expression had an entirely different source: the knowledge that the clones would never have a chance to fall in love outside of their insular world.

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Simon Florentin Adjatan, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro . [En ligne : http://adjatan.org/lectures/article/never-let-me-go-by-kazuo-ishiguro] Consulté le 01-12-16