Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
By Kazuo Ishiguro
(Vintage, Paperback, 9781400078776, October 2010, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

Hauntingly sad, poetic and beautiful.

The Rest of It:

*No obvious spoilers.

The story opens with Kathy H., who has been a “carer” for over eleven years. As she tells her story, the reader is taken back in time to her years at Hailsham, a boarding school located in the English countryside where she was friends with Tommy and Ruth. There, they took classes on all sorts of subjects and were told over and over again by their guardians, that they were special.

Yes, they are special. Very special indeed. What the reader figures out pretty early on, is that these children have a special purpose. However, the children do not know exactly what that purpose is. They just know that they are special, and during their time at Hailsham, they are given information to help them understand that purpose, but not in plain words. Not in a way that they would easily understand.

The school experience is like what you’d expect. There are cliques and teachers who test the administration with their actions. Although Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are very close friends, they have their moments, too. As they grow, they begin to realize their purpose and the dawning realization of what they are, creates tension in ways they are not often prepared to deal with.

This entire story is peppered with clinical aspects. Hailsham is very hospital-like and lab tests are the norm. Since these children really don’t know of a life different from their own, they are somewhat happy yet deep down, they yearn for something more. They just don’t know what.

In one sense, Ishiguro’s delivery is cold as ice. Everyone possesses an aloofness that is slightly off-putting. But, there is a tenderness…a softness to the characters that will make your heart ache. These characters yearn for what they don’t have, yet they have resigned themselves to the lives they’ve been given. They will never really love, because to do so, would mean losing it in the end. They can never have children, or get married or live to a ripe, old age. What they have, is the pleasure of knowing that they’ve lived their life for a purpose.

This book reminded me a lot of The Unit, which has the same premise but uses adults instead of children. In a lot of ways, this book was harder to swallow because it dealt with children, yet Ishiguro handles the topic expertly and I found myself thinking about these characters many days after finishing the book. Its coldness melted away and became profoundly touching.

I haven’t seen the movie, but now I really want to. You can view the movie trailer here.

Source: Borrowed

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31 thoughts on “Review: Never Let Me Go”

  1. I have this book on my Kindle. The trailer looks sad, but very interesting. Perhaps I’ll put it in the Netflix queue for a time when hubby is away. It would definitely not be his cup of tea. LOL

  2. Dang, Ti, you are reading some incredible books lately! I loved this one, and felt that although the audience knew what was going on, it was debatable whether or not the characters really understood what was going to happen to them, until they were finally called upon.Such a haunting and beautiful story, and one that my husband and I both read and then went out to lunch to discuss. It was quite a discussion, I will tell you that! Great review!

  3. I’ve read this haunting book twice and saw the movie in between. The writing is so beautiful and moving. The film is good too, but some images were shocking, and I don’t think I want to see it again.

  4. This book is masterful that way – it is cold, but if you pry open the cracks you see humanity trying to shine through. I have not seen the movie…I don’t think it even came here to Orlando. But Netflix is just a click away.

  5. Do you think I would like this story? At the surface it sounds interesting but I’m not sure I would like it. I bet I will enjoy the movie though (2 hours of fun rather than a week).

    Love the cover, it peaks my interest. Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. I liked Ishiguro’s Once We Were Orphans and became hooked on this writer. I have Never Let Me Go on my Kindle and should get to it soon before I see the film.

  7. This author writes such wonderful books. It’s hard to imagine I’d want to read a book that sounds so sad and troubling but in his hands I know it’s also a beautiful, powerful story. I have let this book languish on my tbr list for too long. I’ve been thinking about making a list of books to read in the beginning of 2012 and this book would be at the top. You’re on a roll of reading fantastic books!

    1. I am trying to keep the book mojo going. I already made my goal for the year as far as the number of books read, so the rest is all icing on the cake!

  8. As usual, another unique hit I have to add to the TBR — I’ve heard of this one, however, and all the swoons for it — glad it lived up to the hype. I’m bumping it up on my TBR — the quiet, cold, tender aloofness seems perfect for my coming winter!

    1. I’ve been trying to read different authors this year so I am glad to have finally read an Ishiguro. Finally! I tend to like cold and aloof. I hope you do, too.

  9. This was such a weird book in many ways because of that coldness and aloofness you mention. Yet I think it served the book well because it would have been “just another dystopia” had it been written otherwise. I’m looking forward to reading The Unit soon. Just got in the mail last week.

  10. This was The impending doom that you feel from page one made me physically anxious. One of my favorites from the year I’ve read it, and still my favorite Ishiguro.

  11. I remember not liking this book when I read it. There was just something about it that completely disconnected me from the characters. It was probably the point and typically I love that type of feeling from a book, but not this time round. And the thing is that I found the writing to be so good, but for some reason, I just didn’t like these characters or their story. I do want to see the movie version though – for some reason I think I’ll enjoy it more than the movie. As for The Unit – loved that one. Go figure.

    1. I think you felt that way because of Kathy. She was almost robotic at times. Very matter-of-fact. Since the story is told from her point of view, she lent it a coldness that I don’t normally “get” with a protagonist.

  12. I finally watched the movie and thought it was really well done. I loved the novel and felt that Ishiguro’s writing, that sense of coldness and the aloofness of the characters, really adding to the frightful prospect of the of future portrayed in the book. Thanks for the review, Ti.

  13. This was an amazing audio. The readers voice imparted a cool, detached, dream-like quality… really added a lot to the overall experience. Can’t wait to see the movie.

  14. I’ve wondered about this one for a while. It’s definitely out of my usual comfort zone but it sounds like it’s so well done that I should stretch myself.

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