To tell the truth, I almost hesitate to review this book; it’s one that has to be reviewed carefully at any rate. I knew little about the plot prior to beginning the book, and I think it’s for the best.
As children, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy were among the students at an elite school, Hailsham. They were constantly told how special they were; Hailsham’s elite reputation is enforced early in the novel, when, as an adult, Kathy is asked constantly about her education at Hailsham. As the novel, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, continues, both the students and the reader learn why it is that Hailsham and its students are so special.
It took me a few days to get into this novel; the beginning was confusing to me, and I just didn’t connect. But as Ishiguro begins to reveal more of the past and the whole story, it became impossible to put the book down. And while it was engrossing, there was a sense throughout that there was just something more than I couldn’t quite put my finger on. As I read, there was a vague feeling of being uncomfortable. But it was a good thing, if that makes sense. The discomfort was what kept me reading.
I’ve seen this novel tagged as being science fiction, and it certainly has an element that’s almost science-fictional in nature, but I would hesitate to label it that. The science fiction aspect is such a small part of the story; this is a novel more about the relationships between the Hailsham students, as well as their relationships with those outside Hailsham. I’ve also seen the label “dystopia” used, and I think that might be more appropriate, but it’s still not quite an adequate label. The Hailsham students might exist in a kind of dystopia, but I don’t know that the rest of the world is dystopian at that point. In any case, it’s a novel that is extremely well-written and beautiful. I found myself relating to Kathy as she struggled to feel at home even among her friends. I highly recommend this book.