Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I sped through this subtly dsytopian novel, not because I wanted it to end, but rather because I wanted to know how it would end. I may not be able to discuss the book as much as I would like to here because there is an element of suspense and mystery that made it that much more intriguing, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t already read the book.

Nevertheless, I can discuss some things that I liked about the novel. The story begins with Kathy H., the first person narrator, telling us that she is thirty-one years old and has been a “carer” for eleven years now, going on twelve. She’s a graduate of a private school called Hailsham, and first part of the book is mostly taken up with Kathy’s memories of her years at Hailsham. (The name of the school kept reminding me of Miss Havisham (Great Expectations), which I assume was unintentional on the part of the author but ironic since the book is mostly about bittersweet and deceptive memories.) As the story progressed, I became more and more curious about what kind of a school Hailsham was (odd), and more and more intrigued by the characters that inhabited the rather artificial environment of this private island of a school. So I was first hooked by the mystery of it all.

Then, I began to realize what an interesting narrator Kathy D. was. She sees the world, not in black and white, but in subtle nuances and unspoken communiques and bits of seemingly unrelated information that add up to a unified theory. She’s part psychologist and part counselor and a bit of a healer. Yet, she’s naive, restricted in her understanding by her sheltered upbringing. And she never sees the complete picture of the world she lives in; she’s trapped inside her world and can’t see a way out. I think that’s what the title “never let me go” means, that for Kathy and her friends there is no escape from the fate that has been pre-planned for them. The question that haunted me throughout the whole novel was, “Why don’t they run away? Why don’t they escape?” But Kathy and her schoolmates never even conceive of the idea of a permanent escape from their destiny, maybe a short reprieve, but no escape.

I hope I haven’t given away too much of the plot of this compelling story. It’s the second book that I’ve completed in my R.I.P. challenge list, and it may join the Hall of Fame in my 100 Best Fiction Books of All Time.

Highly recommended.

Other thoughts on Never Let Me Go:

Mental Multivitamin: Never Let Me Go Is Not a Christmas Book.

Pages Turned: A Few Thoughts on Books Recently Read.

Shane Richmond: Never Let Me Go.

RIP: Never Let Me Go by Michelle.

The English Assassin.

If you’ve read Never Let Me Go and have some thoughts you’d like to share in an audio format, go here to find how to become a part of Renee’s podcast on the novel.

10 thoughts on “Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. 2 down, awesome!!!

  2. This one’s on my list for this year – and I need to get to it before the holiday season sets in, according to M-MV.

  3. DLE

    I’m a huge Ishiguro fan and I thought this one was WAAAAY overated.

    The problem here is that the gist of the book is too light to carry anything. The topic’s been done to death in other speculative fiction, so it’s not new. The book is highly repetitive in that the same basic emotions are run through a million times. The utter sheeplike attitude of the main characters is tragic at first, but Ishiguro goes back to that well so many times that by the end you don’t really care what happens to anyone.

    In short, Ishiguro adds no cogent arguments to this ethical issue. Worst of all, his typically stellar writing doesn’t come through since Kathy is almost a simpleton, making her one of the dullest first person POVs I’ve ever read.

    If you want Ishiguro at his best, read The Remains of the Day or The Unconsoled.

  4. I loved this novel.

  5. I just read this book. I enjoyed your review, and linked to it from mine.

  6. Kirsty

    I loved this book; infact, I chose it as one of my books for a dissertation (comparing and contrasting the narration in “Never Let Me Go” and “Remains of the Day”.)
    They’re fascinating to write about, I might even stick my dissertaion online once I’ve finished.

    Oh,a dn it’s Kathy H., not Kathy D.

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