You go gently along in this novel, loving the voice, the details, the sense of peace that pervades the lives of the three main characters. At the same time you’re aware there’s something beneath the surface. The children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, are “told, but they are not told.” You read on, trusting that it will be revealed to you. Slowly, you begin to understand. Lurking beneath that idyllic life in the English countryside is a horror that is nearly unimaginable.
It’s a shock to learn the meaning of the word “completed,” yet the author has prepared us so well, it is not a shock at all. The same with other words that have special meaning in this new world: carers and donors, guardians and exchanges.
In Ishiguro’s last book, “The Remains of the Day,” the butler immerses himself in the minutiae of everyday life. He takes no notice of the fact that the man he serves, Lord Darlington, is a Nazi sympathizer.
So too the characters in this book. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy focus on the details of their lives at the private school in the English countryside. They do not question their fate, nor the roles they will assume when they move from Hailsham to the cottage, then out into the world.
“Never Let Me Go” is a powerful work of art. It is complicated and unsettling, and in the end, we are left with a profound sense of sorrow, that science could lead us down such dark pathways. But it’s a journey you shouldn’t miss.