I have never read another book quite like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. First of all, it is a rather difficult novel to categorize. It seems somehow apt to label it science fiction, yet Ishiguro’s tranquil prose is nothing like the action-packed, alien-fighting romps we’ve come to expect from the genre. It has also been suggested that the novel is mainly fantasy or mystery, and though elements of both are certainly present, the novel truly resists classification as it subtly employs characteristics of genre without playing into any of the hackneyed conventions.
What I find to be truly intriguing about Ishiguro’s style, however, is his way of evoking intense emotional depth, while seemingly saying nothing out of the ordinary. The reading level of Never Let Me Go is well within the grasp of most middle school students, and overall the prose is very informal and easy to understand, yet the philosophical profundity and heart-breaking emotional precision behind Ishiguro’s writing could overwhelm even the most seasoned adults.
In a short video interview about the novel, Ishiguro reveals that his main theme throughout Never Let Me Go is rather simple: he really hoped to explore the way we struggle with the knowledge of our own eventual mortality. This theme may seem rather morose and unappealing, yet Ishiguro doesn’t bemoan the inevitability of death or even attack it straight on. To some extent, he distracts us. By creating the vivid depictions of Kath, Tommy, and Ruth and by employing elements of suspense and mystery, Ishiguro causes us to sympathize with these characters, as we become increasingly engrossed in the actions of the story. So, when the characters finally discover and confront their own mortality, we discover it along with them,truly sharing their pain as we recognize our own ephemerality. It may seem almost impossible to address such a weighty topic in a way that is both entertaining and heart-breaking, but Kazuo Ishiguro has certainly done it with poise and intelligence.
In addition, the first film adaptation of Never Let Me Go recently debuted in November of 2010 to positive reviews. The cast boasts young talent as Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley. Many critics have concluded that director Mark Romanek and screenwriter Alex Garland have captured the ethereal yet moving quality of the original work.
To read more about Never Let Me Go and how writer Zoe Smith uncovered a longing for her native English countryside through Ishiguro’s prose check out Ode to England Inspired by Kazuo Ishiguro.