Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

February 16, 2017
Never Let Me Go Book Cover Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro
Vintage Books
Kindle & Audiobook

A reunion with two childhood friends draws Kathy and her companions on a nostalgic odyssey into their lives at Hailsham, an isolated private school in the English countryside, and a confrontation with the truth about their childhoods.

Ishiguro, a master of subtle and understated prose, has another excellent novel in Never Let Me Go. The narrator, Kathy tells the story of her friendship with Ruth and Tommy, from their earliest days at their private boarding school to adulthood, through its ups and downs, until only Kathy is left.

While many come to the novel knowing what makes these characters special, even those without prior knowledge should figure it out with little difficulty, early on. While never stating things explicitly, the clues are in plain sight, even if Ishiguro never tackles the topic head-on.

What is the true focus and brilliance of Ishiguro’s novel isn’t the what, but rather, the how. The reader follows these three characters, raised to this purpose that unnerves contemporary audiences. In a masterful play on top of the dramatic irony, shocks us as the Kathy and Tommy, find out what made their school, Hailsham, different from all the others. That revelation has far more impact on the audience than it does the characters. Ishiguro nails the reality of how we as a society and as individuals rationalize and justify our inhuman acts.

The characters are well drawn and Kathy’s narrative draws us in, paints a detailed picture of their world, connecting to us to their experiences.  Yet, as familiar as their upbringing and experiences are, there are aspects of their existence and their acceptance of it that is unfathomable. A part of me hoped for a rebellion and while I empathized with their experience I was frustrated by their unquestioning acceptance, despite understanding the goal of the Hailsham upbringing goal focused precisely on an acceptance, even a belief that who they were made them special.

Ishiguro’s work is always thought-provoking, and most often based on the complex emotional, interpersonal relationships and the individual’s relationship to their status in the world. Never Let Me Go adds the layer of a possible ethics quandary that our innovations of science may present sooner than we’d like.

To see my reading stats on this book, go here: Reading Stats: Never Let Me Go

Wrap Up

Never Let Me Go

  • 10/10
    Story / Plot
  • 9.5/10
  • 10/10
    Structure /Writing Style
  • 9.5/10
  • 10/10
    Details / World Building


  • Stong, distinct narrator
  • Excellent characterizations
  • Subtle handling of a complex ethics issue
  • Beautiful language
  • Understated


  • minor - at times the secondary characters weren't as fleshed out

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