Summary and book reviews of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2005, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2006, 304 pages

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Book Summary

A tale of deceptive simplicity that slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance – and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro's finest work.

From the acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, a moving new novel that subtly re-imagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love.

As a child, Kathy–now thirty-one years old–lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance–and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro's finest work.

Excerpt
Never Let Me Go

My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That'll make it almost exactly twelve years. Now I know my being a carer so long isn't necessarily because they think I'm fantastic at what I do. There are some really good carers who've been told to stop after just two or three years. And I can think of one carer at least who went on for all of fourteen years despite being a complete waste of space. So I'm not trying to boast. But then I do know for a fact they've been pleased with my work, and by and large, I have too. My donors have always tended to do much better than expected. Their recovery times have been impressive, and hardly any of them have been classified as "agitated," even before fourth donation. Okay, maybe I am boasting ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
ABOUT THIS BOOK
A thirty-one-year-old woman named Kathy narrates this haunting tale, drawing the reader gradually into her recollections of her life at Hailsham, the idyllic boarding school where she grew up. She and her best friends, Ruth and Tommy, were encouraged by their teachers to create works of art from an early age, to collect cherished objects, and to take good care of their health. There are no parents in their world, only a handful of teachers, some of whom seem to be deeply troubled by their position at the school. Kathy’s friend Ruth is bossy and manipulative, while Kathy herself is gentle and self-contained. Both are drawn to Tommy, a boy given to explosive fits of temper. What is revealed, as Kathy’s reminiscences...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I was a little disappointed with Never Let Me Go - not because of the writing, which is as elegant as usual, but that Ishiguro raises many questions but answers few.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (267 words).

Media Reviews

Booklist - Allison Block

In this luminous offering, he nimbly navigates the landscape of emotion--the inevitable link between present and past and the fine line between compassion and cruelty, pleasure and pain.

Library Journal - Henry L. Carrigan (starred review)

Ishiguro's elegant prose and masterly ways with characterization make for a lovely tale of memory, self-understanding, and love.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

With perfect pacing and infinite subtlety, Ishiguro reveals exactly as much as we need to know about how efforts to regulate the future through genetic engineering create, control, then emotionlessly destroy very real, very human lives-without ever showing us the faces of the culpable, who have "tried to convince themselves. . . . That you were less than human, so it didn't matter." ... A masterpiece of craftsmanship that offers an unparalleled emotional experience.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

So exquisitely observed that even the most workaday objects and interactions are infused with a luminous, humming otherworldliness. The dystopian story it tells, meanwhile, gives it a different kind of electric charge. . . . An epic ethical horror story, told in devastatingly poignant miniature. . . . Ishiguro spins a stinging cautionary tale of science outpacing ethics.

The Independent (UK) - Geoff Dyer

The problem for the reviewer, appropriately enough, is that by revealing more of what the book is about he risks going too far and unravelling its meticulously woven fabric of hints and guesses. So I'll leave it there. Suffice it to say that this very weird book is as intricate, subtly unsettling and moving as any Ishiguro has written.

The Sunday Times (UK) - Peter Kemp

Not since The Remains of the Day has Ishiguro written about wasted lives with such finely gauged forlornness. That he contrives to do so in a narrative crawling with creepy frissons is remarkable. Not the least out-of-the-ordinary feature of this novel, with its piercing questions about humanity and humaneness, is the way it affectingly moves past gothic shudders to a wrenchingly desolate ending.

The Telegraph (UK) - Caroline Moore

Never Let Me Go will probably disappoint readers for whom the solution of a mystery is all-in-all, or those who want the gratification of full-on horror. But in its evocation of a pervasive menace and despair almost but not quite lost in translation - made up of the shadows of things not said, glimpsed out of the corner of one's eye - the novel is masterly.

The Guardian (UK) - M John Harrison

This extraordinary and, in the end, rather frighteningly clever novel isn't about cloning, or being a clone, at all. It's about why we don't explode, why we don't just wake up one day and go sobbing and crying down the street, kicking everything to pieces out of the raw, infuriating, completely personal sense of our lives never having been what they could have been.

Reader Reviews

Mike Pearson

Hauntingly beautiful
I read the book after watching the movie. So my understanding of the plot was already formed before I read a page. The film moved me and the book even more so. The themes are hauntingly alive to me. The idea of our own known mortality that we all ...   Read More

Peter V.

Brilliant, even if nonsensical
I read this book with patience, then after watching the movie I felt I had to re-read it again. It is a brilliant book,raising a lot of interesting questions. I am avoiding on purpose the link between the topic of cloning and reality, because if one ...   Read More

Bd

Powerful
I have seen several reviewers talk about the setting and basic plot of this book. It's only relevant at all because it gives the author a compressed life period to expose what all humans feel, do, live. It's not quite a great novel. But it's close...   Read More

Billy

Poignant
The only thing that was possibly bad about this book was that the beginning was presented in such a confusing manner that I had no clue what was going on. However, that quickly changed as the introduction was made to the endearing character of Tommy...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1954. He came to Britain at the age of six when his father began research at the National Institute of Oceanography. He was educated at a grammar school for boys in Surrey and then read English and Philosophy at the University of Kent, Canterbury, followed by a creative writing course at the University of East Anglia.

In 1981 he published three short stories, then in 1982 he published A Pale View of Hills.  In 1983 he was nominated by Granta magazine as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Writers'.  An Artist of the Floating World followed in 1986, it won the Whitbread Book of the Year award and was short listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction.

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