Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: 2005
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Format: Paperback
Pages: 282
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from October 5 to 6, 2013
My rating: 5 stars: I love it! It's amazing!
Summary: 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.

Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading. 

There are only so many things you can say about this book without giving spoilers, that’s the problem. So I don’t intend to say much about the plot. I’ll leave it so that you, like me, can dive into the world of Kathy H. and be receptive to the information exposed to you and feel it fresh. Having the plot gradually unraveled before your own eyes was a wonderful experience.

I love that everything in this book conspires to make it so heart-breaking. Everything works. I especially appreciate the narrative style. I’ve seen other reviewers say that it’s off-putting in that it’s so disorganized and hard to keep up, and in a way, they’re right. It is disorganized, but to me it’s in no way off-putting or hard to keep up. And I think there’s a beautiful organization in such a disorganized narrative; I think it has a purpose, and it works extremely well. Kathy would link one thing to another because something in one story reminds her of something in the other. And she always announces beforehand what she’s going to do next, would hint at first what the story she’s about to tell has to do with anything, and what she hopes to make clear. So I actually felt anything but lost. The narration reminds me of the stream of consciousness technique. Its effect that I was always kept on the edge of my seat. Because with every new paragraph comes a new revelation, and there are always more revelations to come. And because it’s not linear story-telling, when the jumbled pieces come together, it clicks and it makes sense and it’s powerful and wonderful. You can see how this event has an impact on the other ones like a domino effect, and how one event that comes later sheds light on many events that come before. You see the characters drift apart and then come together and then drift apart again. I truly think the narrative style is brilliant. There’s always more to find out.

Our narrator’s name is Kathy H. She’s 31. At all times I could feel this nostalgic tone consistently throughout her narrative, and it really breaks my heart. She’s telling the story in the light of everything that has happened, and her stories are tinged with ripe wisdom of someone who’s seen it all. We’re reading her story and understanding it in the way that she makes sense of it now, so there are layers of complexity upon each event. Memories are powerful. Imagine if she loses one memory, the whole piece would really lose its impact. If asked whether I like Kathy, I would say absolutely, I do. Her characterization is one of the brilliant things about this book. She’s wise. She’s an extremely loyal friend. She’s selfless. And she’s complex. She’s so good at reading people, reading situations, but I can’t really read her, and I love that. Not just Kathy, but also Ruth and Tommy; they’re so well fleshed-out that I felt convinced they’re real. They all have a good side, and they have a side that we don’t completely understand, but it’s a part of who they are, and it’s what makes them human. How can anyone say otherwise, having read what I have?

We’re not given so many glimpses of the outside world. Most of the story is set in Hailsham, and the Cottages, and back and forth between hospitals. And I think that illustrates one of the points that this book raises: the moral justification of scientific progress. I won’t say what it is, though I guess some of you already know, but this book deals with this issue that is so 21st century that we all must inevitably have heard of it. I remember this issue was brought up to discussion in one of my classes, but I don’t remember which class or when that was. I remember, though, that we expressed such optimistic, eager, and—now I know—ignorant opinions. It would be wonderful for humanity, we’d say, now that cancer and the likes can go away. Science is god-like, we’d say. But now if I were to take side, I wouldn’t know where to stand. And the book is right in saying that people don’t want to know what’s happening behind the curtain, because it isn’t pretty. And no, it isn’t. These people are pretty much shut away from the outside world, confined in a world of their own where they can be comfortable with who, or what, they are. This book’s got me looking at the world and its scientific advancement in a new way.

Never Let Me Go is so mesmerizing. I waited so long to read it because I was too intimidated to. But really, there’s nothing intimidating about this book, let me tell you. Kathy tells me her story like I’m sitting beside her on bench, enjoying a chilly day together, reminiscing. And she’s talking like she’s speaking to me, face to face, making sure I keep up with everything she says, always giving cues as to where we’re heading. And though the book didn’t make me cry, it did trap me within its sphere for the whole duration I was reading it, and I could feel the nostalgic sadness in the air all the time. I feel for Kathy and her people and all they’ve been through. A story about memories, friendship, love, this is such an amazing, heart-warming book.

This review is also posted on Goodreads.


  1. I've nominated you for a Liebster Award, for having such an awesome blog!

  2. Great review!!! Here's mine if you don't mind:

    Thanks and have a nice day!

  3. Ishiguro used the same mood in "Remains of the Day" to show the character of the butler's surrender to what he feels is his duty and inevitably his fate.

    A very powerful, quietly written book that should be widely read.


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