"Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro Knopf, 288 pp., $24 Coming up Kazuo Ishiguro The author of "Never Let Me Go" will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Microsoft...

Share story

“Never Let Me Go”

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Knopf, 288 pp., $24

The opening paragraph of Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” clearly states that there are “carers” and “donors” in what seems to be a rather ordinary world in late 1990s England. What is not so clear is who those carers and donors are, or their involvement in a “ghastly truth” which Ishiguro slowly reveals through a subtle narrative and sinister plot.

Kathy H. is the 31-year-old first-person narrator of this cautionary tale of speculative fiction. She and her friends, Tommy and Ruth, form an ill-fated love triangle in what is evidently a dystopian society. Although “reared in a humane, cultivated environment,” they have been designed for a single, greater purpose with an ultimate scientific end. As a result, they suffer from lost childhoods and limited maturities.

The three cohorts have been raised in the privileged confines of a private school called Hailsham located in the British countryside. But there are some strange facts about Hailsham. Commonplace experiences soon appear off-center and suspicious. The faculty are referred to as “guardians.” There’s no mention of parents. Sex is “casual and functional,” and the children cannot have children of their own.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

It begins to look like M. Night Shyamalan territory when “normal people outside” call the children “sweethearts” and deliver necessary food items and gifts to the secluded, forested school grounds. A rebellious guardian disappears after she promises to tell the children “how they were brought into the world and why.”

The novel vibrates with intrigue and internal tension. When the children move from the elementary school level to a newfound independence at “the Cottages,” misunderstandings and adolescent manipulations lead to betrayals of friendship. Ishiguro prepares the reader for the inevitable limitations of hope in the shadows of futility. The chilling discovery about the true fate of the children is both devastating and haunting.

“Never Let Me Go” is a shuddering glance into the braver newer world of the 21st century and the possible results of far-reaching consequences from late-20th-century scientific experiments couched in the guise of life-affirming experiments.