I’d read a couple of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, but the news that he had won the Nobel Prize was sufficient motivation to dig out Never Let Me Go. Like the other Ishiguro books I’d read – The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans – it was narrated by a protagonist who is trying to make sense of an imperfectly remembered past.
Kathy, the narrator, comes across as a person whose life experience peaked during her time at a boarding school called Hailsham. She comes across as decent and pleasant, yet dull and obsessive.
As the story progresses you learn with a growing sense of horror that this is not an ordinary boarding school and that the children in school are being groomed for a hopeless and inhumane future. Even though they are aware of their future fates, they seem curiously resigned to it. Because of this, the adventures of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy seem less a coming-of-age story for slightly-privileged middle-Englanders and more of a war novel. They are like Bäumer, Katczinsky and Kropp in All Quiet on the Western Front, persistently and determinedly trying to live small, decent and comfortable lives in a context of catastrophe.