Florence and the Machine, one of my favorite artists, recently released a new album called Ceremonials. It’s fantastic, but lest you think I’m jumping topics, the reason I’m writing about her on a literary blog is because of track number four, “Never Let Me Go.”
Fans of Kazuo Ishiguro will automatically make the connection. if you haven’t had the privilege of reading any of Ishiguro’s work, he released a book of the same name in 2005. It’s one of my favorite books, but I’d almost forgotten about it until I looked at the track list for Ceremonials.
Naturally, “Never Let Me Go” was the first song I listened to, and I admit I was looking for an obvious connection. Ishiguro and his novel are well-known and respected, and a movie has been made featuring Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley. I didn’t find the obvious link, though I still remain convinced Florence had some knowledge of Ishiguro’s work.
Despite the lack of an obvious connection, the song still reminded me of the novel, and I picked up the book and started reading it again. It’s a tragic story about Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, who are actually clones that will have to donate all of their organs by the time they reach their mid-twenties. Weaved into the novel is a beautiful love story between Kathy and Tommy, which started from the time they were children. The tone of longing and the idea of being helpless against the powerful forces around you—their lot in life, the gradual way people change and time itself—is certainly echoed in Florence’s song.
Kathy, Tommy and Ruth cannot control the situation they’re in and do not try; Florence similarly sings of letting the ocean sweep her away and take her under. Both works build a certain kind of peace in letting go; in letting themselves follow the river instead of fighting against the current.
If you’ve read the book, use the song as a soundtrack and read it again. If you haven’t, do so immediately. You won’t be disappointed.
“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. That’s how it is with us. It’s a shame, Kath, because we’ve loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can’t stay together forever.” – Tommy, Never Let Me Go
“And it’s peaceful in the deep,
Cathedral where you cannot breathe,
No need to pray, no need to speak
Now I am under.”
– Florence and the Machine, Never Let Me Go