I just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, a subtley sci-fi coming of age novel (spoilers below). It was made into a 2010 film starring Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan, and Keira Knightley, which I saw a couple years back.
If you’ve heard anything about it, what you’ve probably heard is the shocking twist which gives this otherwise relatable childhood to adolescent to young adult story its sci-fi edge.
But what separates the film from the novel is how this shocking twist is made known. In the film, there is an M. Night type reveal. In the novel, this reveal moment never really happens.
The hidden-from-children-truth is a slow burn reveal, bits and pieces here and there over the years, that come into focus gradually. More like inching back from an impressionist painting at a painstakingly slow pace until the paint blobs become a recognizable landscape whole, rather than like flipping a canvas over and seeing everything that had been hidden all at once.
How this hidden-from-children-truth becomes revealed I think is really the most impressive part of the book, rather than the content of the shocking twist itself. It feels like Ishiguro captured something hard to capture about how these truths actually become known. To use a silly example, in films and TV shows, I feel like there is a moment when a child is told that Santa isn’t real, whereas the reality is more like you start to see cracks in the story you’ve been told, and you doubt it partially in some parts in your brain but hold onto the desire to believe it to be true in others, until one day you realize that at some point you stopped believing in that story. I think the same thing is true though for the more important hidden-from-children-truths out there too though. Such as, you know, that quicksand isn’t actually around every corner, which is really something that my Saturday morning cartoons led me to believe was the case.