Never Let Me Go

At first, Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go seems like a well-written, but ordinary, novel about a woman remembering her childhood. But as the narrator, Kathy, pieces together the memories of her past, a disturbing reality begins to emerge: she and her school friends were not like other children. They were clones, separated from the outside world and destined to donate their organs to cure the diseases of others until they “complete” — a sinister euphemism for dying. Now, Kathy is an adult who is facing the tragedy of her life with a matter-of-fact bravery. Ishiguro’s strange alternative reality is all the more unsettling for how utterly familiar it feels.

Science

Although the novel is technically science fiction, Ishiguro does not go into grisly detail about the cloning which brought its characters into the world. Instead, he focuses on the emotional consequences of what would happen “if just one or two things had gone differently on the scientific front.”

Memory

Kathy is 31 by the novel’s end, and as the people around her disappear, she clings to her memories of them for comfort. But are these memories reliable? And is it wise to spend so much time thinking about the past?

Truth

Growing up at Hailsham, the children were “told and not told” about their ultimate fate. Tommy argues that the information they were given was carefully timed so that they were always slightly too young to understand it. Why is the search for the truth so important?

Obligation

The horrific acts in Never Let Me Go are very rarely questioned or rebelled against by the characters who endure them. There is hope that they might one day get a “deferral” — but when this is proved to be false, Kathy and Tommy accept their fate and do their duty.

Art

Unbeknownst to the students at Hailsham, the artwork they create is being used by their teachers to prove that they have souls. Art and poetry are the most important school subjects — and so Tommy is constantly frustrated by his lack of drawing skills. What makes art so powerful?