I picked this book up off a charity shop shelf a few months back and had it on standby whilst I ticked some other books off my list; Grapes of Wrath (too long), The Wasp Factory (brilliant and disturbing in equal measure) and Circe (controversial: I hated it.)
Never Let Me Go is a fictional memoir narrated by thirty-one year old Kathy and set in a dystopian England. She begins at the present describing herself as a carer – although for what we aren’t sure – before delving into her past, which appears to be set in some sort of liberal arts boarding school. Her experience at school, whilst perfectly pleasant, is peppered with a litany of absurd goings-on; strange outbursts from teachers, shadowy characters and ominous rumours which appear to be concealing some larger truth; although this isn’t properly revealed until Kathy and her comrades leave school.
The story assumes a naivety and fragility as we are granted access to Kathy’s memories
The prose reads like a train of thought, wherein the protagonist halts her dialogue when she comes across a previously unexplained anecdote and goes off on a tangent so as to contextualise her point. In no way distracting however, the technique effortlessly weaves Kathy’s past and present, avoiding a generic clunkiness that can come with time hopping. The story assumes a naivety and fragility as we are granted access to Kathy’s memories.
The story is an astute exploration of the roles of rulers and servers in our society, although granted, greatly amplified. Even as the protagonists start to grasp the magnitude of the scheme within which they find themselves bound, the indoctrination that began way back at their ‘liberal’ arts school appears impenetrable. Their staunch conviction in what they’ve been led to believe is right unwaveringly trumps any attempt at resistance.
Whilst dystopia may not seem the best option for escapism – since we’re practically living it – the prominent themes in the book couldn’t be more exacting to our times
Whilst dystopia may not seem the best option for escapism – since we’re practically living it – the prominent themes in the book couldn’t be more exacting to our times. And whilst its scathing evaluation of both the ruling elite and the vulnerable members of society scald with the heat of the truth, it’s the pure force of human love and connection which provides them (us?) with a light in the interminable dark.
Last modified: 29th March 2020