Full Review : Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go (Amazon Link)

Year Published : 2005
Genre : Literary Fiction, British Literature, Contemporary, and one more thing that’s a little spoiler to mention.
Mood : Peaceful and contemplative.. until it’s not. o_o

Edition : Kindle eBook
# of Pages : 288 (Paperback)
Time Spent Reading : 5.2 hours
Date Finished : 7/10/2019


From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Dayand When We Were Orphans, comes an unforgettable edge-of-your-seat mystery that is at once heartbreakingly tender and morally courageous about what it means to be human.

Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but itโ€™s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Never Let Me Go breaks through the boundaries of the literary novel. It is a gripping mystery, a beautiful love story, and also a scathing critique of human arrogance and a moral examination of how we treat the vulnerable and different in our society. In exploring the themes of memory and the impact of the past, Ishiguro takes on the idea of a possible future to create his most moving and powerful book to date.


I usually rate books based on enjoyment. In this case I’m rating based off of what I think this book’s intrinsic value is and how strong its best traits are. In terms of concept and story, the main idea is brilliant. I’m planning to see the movie and can imagine a skillfully made TV series based on this story would be so moving and thought provoking. (Update : There actually is a 10 episode TV drama based on this book, from Japan, called Watashi wo Hanasanaide.)

But as an entertaining reading experience on the whole? Honestly speaking, I fell asleep three times in the earlier-to-middle sections. I was gripped and captivated during the last quarter of the book, especially when some of the large questions of the story are answered.

There were several beautiful moments here and there preceding what would seem like a paltry last quarter, but it really must be mentioned that in terms of eventfulness this book is missing something essential that would push its elements forward in a broadly appealing way. Or it could just be that I’m not all in on literary fiction despite adoring a few big-name titles.

Also worth noting- a lot of the things that seemed “wrong” with the writing or style are quite possibly essential to the story. That’s hard to explain without spoilers. I feel like going into this book blind (preferably as blind as possible, without even reading the summary) is the ideal way to experience it.

Kathy (the protagonist) expresses thoughts and emotions in a stilted way. Her point of view seemed like a lot of quiet ramblings towards ends that didn’t seem vital or revealing. The rest of the characters aren’t much more interesting (though I liked Tommy) and they are puzzlingly passive.

But when you find out the “twist”, their attitudes make a lot more sense and at that point the barrier becomes whether or not the characters can still manage to connect to the reader on a level that makes them possible to empathize with.

For me, that barrier was passable. This cast was not perfectly likable or relatable, but the nature of their plight is very thought-provoking.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Why You Should Try It – The concept and big reveal offers so much to think about. A great book to spark discussion. Some very moving moments.

Critique – The writing style seemed stiff and not easy to engage with at some earlier sections. The pure emphasis on characters and the protagonist discussing her feelings about them can go on for long, trying stretches.

Never Let Me Go (Amazon Link)

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