Like The Unconsoled (1995), at the 200th of whose 500 Delphic pages I am afraid I gave up, Kazuo Ishiguro’s sixth novel uses a great deal of ‘ordinary’ language and emotion to describe an ever more extraordinary situation. Like another recent novel by a famous name (Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, 2003), it takes as its subject an eerie dystopia, the difference being that the full impact of what is going on creeps up on the reader by stealth. Historically, dystopian fiction gets by on openly dramatic shifts in the physical and moral landscapes. Here the effect is of a familiar room in which each piece of furniture has been moved a foot or two out of trim, with horribly sinister results.
Set in an alternative version of the English 1990s, with life outside the closely monitored palisade of its protagonists apparently going on as usual, Never Let Me Go takes in an emotional threesome made up of ‘Kathy H’ and her fast friends Ruth and Tommy. Narrated by Kathy (instantly revealed