Picks and Pans Review: Never Let Me Go

UPDATED 04/18/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/18/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

NOVEL

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Ishiguro is a miniaturist who dissects the smallest shrugs and pauses to get at big emotional truths. This technique worked wonderfully in The Remains of the Day, his 1989 novel about a butler's yearnings. But it has a dampening effect on Never Let Me Go, a dystopian fantasy about a group of clones replicated from society's "trash"—prostitutes, junkies, criminals—to serve as organ donors. Kathy, the narrator, is midway through the journey prescribed for every clone from student to "career" (someone who tends to those undergoing transplant surgeries) to donor. After donating several organs, most clones "complete," or cease to live. Remembering her golden days at boarding school, Kathy tries to reconstruct when, and how, she and her schoolmates came to understand their fate. She also tries to puzzle out why only the Hailsham students, an envied elite among the clones, received a first-class education rich in poetry and art. The answer is convoluted; the love story that parallels this quest is somewhat flat. Even fantasies must follow their own logic, and this one leaves too many holes between the closely examined conversations.

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