Never Let Me Go is one of those books where the less you know, the better. So I'm not planning on talking much about the story itself. Instead, I wanted to share some thoughts I had while reading this book.
If you strip this book down to its plot, it would be very short, but if you took it out all together, then the character development would be fairly random. The two complement each other perfectly, though the characterization takes center stage for the bulk of the story. The book starts off slowly, and the pace for getting the details of what's actually happening behind Hailsham would be best described as glacial, but I never felt frustrated, nor did I feel like the author needed to step things up. Early in the story, the narrator, Kathy, mentions how the teachers at Hailsham "told but not told" the students about what happened outside the school, and Ishiguro did the same thing with his readers.
The best way to read this book, I think, is to not know anything about it going into it. I knew very little, and nothing at all about the plot, which I think affected some of the mystery behind the hints Ishiguro peppered throughout the story. I had an idea what it was about, but knowing what little I did gave me a bit too much information. In fact, had I known even less than I did, the story would have come across much darker, and much more sinister.
Kathy is the narrator for the story, and she comes across as a reliable narrator. At a couple of different points in the story she addresses how her memory of an event from the past is different from how someone else remembers the same event, but not enough for it to affect her story. There's nothing in the narrative itself to suggest that she might not be telling us everything, nor that she has her own agenda. The thing is, everything in the book is told from her perspective, and she presents herself as being very astute. She appears to be very good at reading body language, expressions, and what's left unsaid in an argument, but is she really? Are the facts as she tells them to us accurate, or is she projecting her own feelings on those closest to her?
In fact, using her as a narrator was a pretty brilliant move on the author's part. I've read a number of stories where the main character doesn't know about something that the reader knows about, but in this book, the narrator is telling us what she knows, without any idea that anything she's telling us is unusual, and we're the ones who don't really know what's going on. That leads to the piecemeal way in which the reader understands the larger picture, which, as I mentioned above, is a part of the perfect dichotomy of the plot and the characterization.
The book is a great read. It's a page-turner without being a plot-driven novel, and the themes will keep you thinking and talking well past the time when you think you've put the book aside. I was surprised that I liked this one as much as I did.