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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

February 14, 2011


In one of the most acclaimed and strange novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewered version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.


Never Let Me Go is one of those books that has sat on my bookshelf for some time now but I had just never got around to reading it. However, since I heard that it was going to be made into a film I made it a point to push it to the top of my ‘to read’ pile, and I am so very glad that I read the book before I ever saw the movie.

I think Never Let Me Go has probably been added to my favourite books of all time. I was absolutely entranced by this world that Ishiguro has created. The most important thing you need to know before you read this is DO NOT find out a single thing about it before you do read it. I had no idea what it was really about when I started it and I was so grateful for this. It definitely would have ruined it for me if I had. Ishiguro is a master at making you think that the world in which these people are living in, the school where they are growing up is nothing but ordinary, until he slowly unravels the truth throughout the book. Everything is not quite as it seems, and we are discovering these things just as Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are. For the reasons I just described I’m not going to go into what the reality of this world is. You must find it out for yourself.

Some people have classed this as ‘science fiction’ but I think the way it has been marketed as fiction is exactly right. True science fiction fans will ultimately be disappointed by it and fiction lovers will feel that they have read something quite different to anything else they’ve read before. It balances the two quite perfectly. This is literary fiction with a sci-fi twist.

Aside from the science fiction element, this is a novel about love, friendships, relationships and life itself. I can’t imagine living in the world they do, or living the lives that they are forced to live. Kathy narrates the whole story beautifully as she looks back on her time at the school they all attended as children. There is a real sense of missed opportunities and of what could have been. It is not an uplifting story by any means, it will make you question your life and if you are living it to its fullest. It makes you realise that  you should never take your time on this earth for granted. The relationships between Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are intriguing to watch as they develop. I got a sense that although Ruth could often grate on everyones nerves at times, they only really have each other. They depend on one another. It is all they know. They accept their fate almost without question, and I think this is the most painful thing of all about the novel.

This novel also makes you question the advances in science in our world today. Is this the kind of world we are striving for? Could this really happen? Is it worth it?

I am very hesitant to watch the movie. I am just not sure it will compare to Ishiguro’s writing, and the real insight you get into Kathy’s thoughts on every event that happens. I would recommend everyone to read this before watching it, at least. Here is the trailer for the film if you wish to see it:


I know that Never Let Me Go will stay with me for a very long time. It is heart-wrenching, thought-provoking and you will not be able to put it down. I am definitely going to read more of Ishiguro’s work.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2011 15:32

    Great review!

    I read this book last year and have got to say it was one of the more beautifully written things I’ve ever come across. Speaking as someone who also had no idea what the book was about and was pretty unfamiliar with the idea of boarding schools (not counting Harry Potter), I found the novel to be simply enchanting.

  2. February 15, 2011 17:41

    Ahh fellow book monkey! Looks like we once again have similar tastes 🙂 I was surprised by just how much I loved Never Let Me Go! I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. Have you read any other books by Ishiguro?

    • February 15, 2011 21:20

      I’ve got a used copy of “When We Were Orphans” sitting on my to-be-read shelf, but otherwise no, Never Let Me Go was my first exposure to Ishiguro.

      • February 15, 2011 23:31

        I must read something else of his at some point. Do you think you will watch the ‘Never Let Me Go’ film?

  3. February 28, 2012 07:47

    well done. i red this book when it was published (i’m an ishiguro follower) but never attempted a review because of this thing you say, here, you say one word and really SPOIL it. the haunt is being carried in this haze of nostalgia an melancholia attached to that past, and being, more than in any other novel, side by side with the main character. i like your review very much. thanks.

    • February 28, 2012 09:12

      Yes whenever I recommend it to anyone I always tell them to not find out anything about it whatsoever beforehand… I’m so glad I could do it myself. I’ve been meaning to read more Ishiguro since but just haven’t had the time….anything in particular you’d recommend, seeing as you’re an Ishiguro follower? 🙂


  1. February Summary « Book Monkey
  2. Never Let Me Go (Film) « Book Monkey

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