Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

never-let-me-go(Note: Even though, as I’ll state farther down, I have no idea really happened in Never Let Me Go, I’m afraid in my confusion that my have completely and utterly spoiled this one. Just a fair warning.)

Never Let Me Go is quiet, very quiet. In its 288-pages, not much actually happens, and I couldn’t shake this feeling that I was reading a transcript of Kathy’s conversation with her therapist rather than an actual novel. She goes off on tangents a lot, and there really are no clear answers from her narrative about what it actually means to be a carer and what she, Tommy, Ruth, and the other children of Hailsham actually grow up to be.

“Then there’s the solitude. You grow up surrounded by crowds of people, that’s all you’ve ever known, and suddently you’re a carer. You spend hour after hour, on your own, driving across the country, centre to centre, hospital to hospital, sleeping in over nights, no one to talk you about your worries, no one to have a laugh with. Just now and again you run into a student you know — a carer or donor you recognize from the old days — but there’s never much time. You’re always in a rush, or else you’re too exhausted to have a proper conversation. Soon enough, the long house, the travelling, the broken sleep have all crept into your being and become part of you, so everyone can see it, in your posture, your gaze, the way you move and talk.” (pg. 207-208)

Oh, sure, there are clues along the way as to what these children actually are — Aliens? Gifted and talented children? Clones? — with the largest piece of enlightening information coming from the outburst of Miss. Lucy, a caretaker at Hailsham.

“The problem, as I see it, is that you’ve been told and not old. You’ve been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way. But I’m not. If you’re going to have decent lives, then you’ve got to know and know properly. None of you will go to America, none of you will be film stars. And none of you will be working in supermarkets ad I heard some of you planning the other day. Your lives are set out for you. You’ll become adults, then before you’re old, before you’re even middle-aged, you’ll start to donate your vital organs. That’s what each of you was created to do. You’re not like the actors you watch on your videos, you’re not even like me. You were brought into this world into this world for a purpose, and your futures, all of them, have been decided.” (pg. 81)

And that’s just about it. With Never Let Me Go, I feel like everyone in the literary world is playing a joke on me. An odd feeling? Yes, but I can’t help but feel like everyone else knows what exactly was going on with Never Let Me Go and I don’t. Is it social commentary? Quite possibly. After all, I have managed to surmise that these carers were made to serve as personal organ donors for their “possibles,” that is the ones they are cloned from, in order to prolong human life.

Other than Ishiguro’s mastery of the English language, there’s not much in this “novel” I actually enjoyed.

“The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it’s a cold moment. It’s like walking past a mirror you’ve walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange.” (pg. 36)

His writing has this very overcast tone, and reading it on a claustrophobic airplane made it feel even more ominous. I had to stop reading a couple of times, but I still think the majority of his sentences were very beautiful. It maybe, just maybe, might be enough to get me to pick up another his books despite the low rating.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. Vintage, 2006. Originally published 2005. London, UK: Vintage, 288 pgs. ISBN: 1400078776. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Vintage. Retrieved: March 19, 2009.


  1. Yours is actually the first negative review of this I see! Which I appreciate, because I always like hearing both sides. I have this on my tbr pile and hope to get to it soon.


  2. @ Claire: Yep, and that’s why I’ve linked to other reviews since I started my book blog. We all see things differently, and I don’t want some to not read a book just because I said not to. So many people love this book, and they must have their reasons.

    @ Nymeth: Yeah, I noticed. I felt like I wasn’t seeing what everyone else sees, but as Claire said above you, we all see things differently. Maybe you’ll have better luck than me.


  3. I didn’t read your review, because I’m hoping to be as ignorant of its plot going in as I can when I pick it up for Reading Buddies, but I’m going to try very hard to remember to come back and read it! I hope you’ll join in the discussion for RB when we get there. Also feel free to link up your review. The more the merrier 🙂


    • Honestly, I was so confused by this book that I think I would be worthless for a discussion. ;-P But I understand why you would want to be ignorant of the plot — I hate it when a book I’m really looking forward to is completely ruined. Hence the reason why I stuck a spoiler warning at the top.


  4. Sorry to hear you didn’t really enjoy it. It was one of the best book of 2009 for me. You’re right it’s “quiet” and you’re never really sure what’s going on, but man, can the man write! It was one of those book that keeps coming to mind in very different situations.


  5. Amy

    It’s the best literature I’ve ever read. I am sorry you didn’t see much beyond the literal plot of 3 characters being clones. The book is about what really matters in life – friendship, love, life and death – and it’s done so masterfully that you are just contemplating about it months and years after finishing it. I recommend you read it again. Perhaps in a few years time. I think you must have real life experience to get the message. And I don’t claim I have got it. This work is so rich and subtle, despite the obvious plot there are many other subplots which to me were much more important.


  6. Pingback: Reading Buddies Wrap-Up: “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

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