Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro


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.

Literary Award: Man Booker Prize Nominee (2005), Arthur C. Clarke Award Nominee (2006), ALA Alex Award (2006)



Never Let Me Go is gloomy – I can’t wait to finish it so I can get on with my reading life! I feel terrible that I didn’t like it, since some of my Goodreads friends marked Never Let Me Go as their favorites. Still, I would have chucked the book (if I wasn’t reading on my Kindle) a mile away, walk over to pick it up, only to chuck it again. They say subtlety is Ishiguro’s writing style – I say now that I will steer clear from that kind of writing since subtlety on books will never work for me.

I was disconnected with the characters; I felt no affinity to any of them, well maybe a little bit to Tommy. Kathy is a pushover most times; Ruth is… how do I say this? Ah, queen b*tch. When I reached Part Three, I don’t know why I’m still reading because I was at a loss on where Ishiguro is taking me (this is the subtlety part). I already have an idea on the Hailsham students’ purpose but I guess I’m waiting for the affirmation – but it only came late in the book. The twist was not shocking enough to merit the sacrifice I did by reading all the way. Sheesh.

I think you already got my point: I did not like Never Let Me Go: the story flow, the unlikeable characters, the somber atmosphere Ishiguro got going throughout the book.

Perhaps the only thing that drew something positive from me is the scene between Madame and Kathy discussing their sides on one moment years ago: Kathy is dancing on the tune of a tape then realized Madame is watching her, crying. The interpretation of Ishiguro on that is good – that much I can admit.  But it ends there.

Did you love Never Let Me Go? If yes, then I’d appreciate it if you leave a comment sayiing why you love it. Perhaps I can find something else to like in the book besides the only reason I stated above through someone else’s eyes. Apparently, i’m not a fan of subtlety on novels.



.: maria :.

“giving up is the ultimate tragedy.”


15 thoughts on “Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. Aww, too bad you didn’t like it. I thought it was a very haunting book, and Kathy’s distant narrations and reflections on the book made it stand out from the others.

    Hm, which reminds me now: have you read Unwind by Neal Shusterman? They have a similar concept, but it’s geared for YA.

    • I know, Tina =( i felt bad because you, Monique, KD and Angus loved this. Not really my cup of tea, i guess.

      Yes, i’ve read Unwind and surprisingly, it’s a 5 for me. i almost did not find the similarity until later in Never Let Me Go. Thank you for reading!

  2. Wait, you’re put off by a ” somber atmosphere”? I mean, perhaps we are supposed to be depressed. And even MORE so by the fact that the characters are flawed human beings. Hmm… A gloomy backdrop doesn’t ruin a book — unless the other two points were really that bad.

    I do love Murakami — haven’t read this one yet but finished the epic Wind-Up Bird Chronicle a while back.

  3. This was just recommended to me by a fellow book blogger and I’ve been kind of looking forward to reading it. I’m sorry to hear you found it so hard to connect with the characters since that is what I usually look for in a book, engaging characters. I guess this is one of those “you either love it or hate it” kind of books. Great review!

    • True, Donna – love it or hate it. Ishiguro might not be my cup of tea for an author. Perhaps this is your kind of book…? Read it still, it’s just 200+ pages so it won’t be hard. Let me know what you think once you’ve read, okay? Thank you!

  4. LOL, I feel like we’ve been talking about this for a long time now. Something to like about the book? How about… the title? It’s actually the title that first pulled me into it. Imagine someone telling you that, never let me go.

    I have even considered getting a literary tattoo of the title on my wrist. Not because I super love the novel (Hunger by Knut Hamsun is still my ultimate favorite), but because I just like hearing the words. 😀

    • I know! The title also has that same pull on me – so imagine my disappointment about me not liking it. I remembered the different intepretations of Kathy and Madame on Never Let Me Go – it’s nice. =) Thanks, Angus!

      • Thanks too! I mean, I think you really took the trouble to read this one.

        On a similar note, I am currently reading Ishiguro’s more popular work, The Remains of the Day. I don’t know if I could recommend it to you because I was shedding tears last night because of it. And it’s only my first night of reading it!

  5. Urgh I totally agree with you!!!! I’ve got about fifty pages left and I cannot wait to finish it!! I’m almost wanting it to get a little better just to justify the time wasted on it!

    The wording bugs me to tears, I cannot stand listening to Kathy what a spineless git! And the way she treats Tommy just to stay in Ruth’s good books it’s simply awful reading!!

    So glad I’m not the only one!

  6. Pingback: Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell « reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

  7. Pingback: Elated (or not): Getting Sentimental « reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

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