This novel is so significant that I wish I could talk about it in specific terms. But that would spoil it for uninitiated readers, so I will do the best I can with generalities.
On the surface, Never Let Me Go is about children growing up at an English boarding school. The narrator, Kathy H., describes her fellow students, her teachers, and the living conditions of Hailsham as one might expect from an adolescent growing into womanhood. The youths study, play, gossip about the adults in their world, and develop relationships.
What draws us relentlessly through the story is the growing awareness of something unusual about this school. The students’ never leave the grounds of Hailsham, never mention their families, and have only a vague knowledge of what awaits them in adulthood, except for an awareness of such terms as “carers”, “deferrals”, and “possibles”. We never learn their last names, and their teachers are referred to as guardians.
Kathy H. describes her world as someone struggling to understand it while maintaining a dutiful respect for those in authority. Her closest friends, Ruth and Tommy, react differently, Ruth pretending more knowledge than she possesses, Tommy alternating between naivete and rage. Ultimately, all of them face the truth bravely and nobly. Never Let Me Go is a poignant parable of human nature and the ways in which we allow it to shape our world.
This is one of the few novels I grant a five-star rating despite non-explicit sexual references and a few offensive words. Kazuo Ishiguro has given us a glimpse of a horrific and very possible future. If his forecast is correct, may God bless us with a better morality than we display now in the face of current challenges.