Lock my heart, throw away the key
Fill my love with ecstasy.
Bind my heart with your warm embrace
And tell me no one would ever take my place.
Darling, tell me, tell me, tell me
You’ll never, never, never,
Never, never, never…
Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a grim account of an alternative reality in which Ishiguro asserts the value of human life, and the importance of love. It’s not really science fiction, as there’s no real science here, but is based on an alternative future created by the application of technology, and is described by one reviewer as a kind of Frankenstein.
The first person narrative voice is calm and rational; it’s the voice of an intelligent and sensitive young woman who tells the story of her life and friendships. The cover of my copy shows Keira Knightley in the film version, and at times in the dialogue I could hear her clipped and prim voice. Ishiguro never overstates, and I found that particularly with The Remains of the Day, where the spare restrained prose is ideally suited to the narrator – in that case a rather reserved butler. In Never Let Me Go, too, the understatement is used to emphasise finally the sheer horror and emptiness of life, but Ishiguro is more liberal with the use of metaphor. The book ends on a windswept Norfolk beach. At one point they approach the ruins of a boat lost in the estuary. These seem to represent the mood and themes of the book, and verge on the use of the pathetic fallacy.
Ishiguro’s characters are never less than believable – he is very good at getting himself into the heads of different people, bringing them to life with a variety of tics and mannerisms. The narrator notices body language, and the politics of everyday social interaction in a way that is completely credible for a woman of her age, and she is used effectively to present the characters in realistic detail.
It is quite a depressing book – though the ultimate point is possibly one of hope – the narrator’s heroism is impressive, and unusual. I would never read this again, but would recommend it to you.