Kathy H. is a student at Hailsham. She is a clone who, at the right age, will donate her organs to save the lives of the humans she was created to save. Kathy and her fellow students never question this. It is the way it is supposed to be. The guardians at Hailsham are quick to remind the students how special they are but as Kathy and her friends Ruth and Tommy get older they begin to hope for a different future.
Since the real plot of the story is only hinted at for the first half of the novel, this novel is very character driven. Thankfully, they are, in most cases, extremely well-fleshed-out motivated by commonplace desires and fears. Ruth is a horrid character but her desire to be included and her fear of loneliness makes it clear that she is not a the bad guy to Kathy's good guy. They are both imperfect creatures but it is easy to side with Kathy because as readers we are inside her mind. Kathy seems so human in her narrative, it is often easy to forget that she is in fact a clone. Her tangents are a large part of that--even if the overall effect is to make the book more dull. It is like when your friend is telling a funny story about their cat and they feel the need to describe the color of shirt they were wearing when it happened. Ishiguro also does a brilliant job of inserting little moments that are so innately human that they are easy to overlook.
In the strictest sense Never Let Me Go is a science-fiction novel that presents an reimagined image of our past where clones were created to serve as organ donors. But it is so removed from any science-fiction that I've ever read that it is hard to lump this book into that category. It is not an easy read. It is a book that very much requires the correct mindset. It is not a happy book, to say the least. But it is a powerful one. The scene that sticks out especially in my mind was the one with Kathy dancing with the pillow when she was a young girl. I can see it so vividly in my mind, from Madame's point of view and from Kathy's. It is such a simple scene but a truly beautiful one.
Never Let Me Go is not an obviously good book. It doesn't fascinate and ensnare readers at first glance. In actuality, it is a terribly hard and boring book to read at times. The prose can feel long, overly descriptive, and a bit monotonous in parts. It is not until moments after the last page has been read and the book lays closed on your bedside table that the beautiful haunting spirit of the novel finally hits. The story of Kathy and Tommy and Ruth. The tragedy and the pain of letting go to our dreams and the people we love. The experience is heighten even more with the movie adaptation's soundtrack playing in the back of your mind--particularly this little gem, Reprise.