Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro


From the acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, a moving new novel that subtly reimagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love.

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.

Published 31 August 2010


Never let Me Go is a beautiful story of the fragility of life viewed through skewered lenses.

What Kathy, Ruth and Tommy really are is a dark identity that slowly reveals itself as we peel off its covers one by one.

There are enough dystopians and tales about clones *cough* that portray a flailing world without humanity. But what Ishiguro does is to portray the very beauty and ugliness of life. 

As you see them grow up in Hailsham, you see the typical social dynamics between teenagers, the pastoral and happy life all in a glow, bright dreams about the future-- a happy and carefree childhood. But when they come to terms with who they really are, the students don't rebel. 

For them, they accept this reality quickly as on a certain level, they always knew.  That even when they are at their happiest and most innocent, there are always subtle reminders that nothing in their world can be taken at face value.

I've wondered why, they never try to escape their fate throughout the novel and always accept their fate with varying degrees of calmness or dread. But then it came to me when I see them carrying out their duties with a sense of dignity. It is important to them that they do well in what the society expects of them. 

And when it comes to the end of the novel, I become suddenly unsure if their lives are really different from the lives of the people they save. As friends, places and love slowly leaves Kathy, she is left standing forlornly close to the end of her journey. Maybe she wishes to join them after death. But one thing is certain, she is human, not what society thinks she is. She feels, she loves, she hurts. 

If I say that I begin this novel horrified by their difference from us, then I end it thoughtful about their similarity to us. As Kathy loses the things she holds dear one by one, she experiences the tragedy of mortality. 

And I see myself in her place, perhaps seventy or eighty years later.

That's why Never Let Me Go breaks your heart then fills it with passion towards life. Because really, we may live longer, but we all die, no matter who we are. Kathy, Tommy and Ruth understood the most precious things to the human heart as they one by one face their imminent fate-- death on the surgical table. What does it take to have us realize that life really isn't that long?

Treasure your friends, love your family, run through the rain and chase your dreams! Don't wait until it's too late before you realize the true meaning of life-- it's to live!

Source: Purchased



  1. Ohh this has got to be one of my favourite books! It's so heartbreaking how they all just accept their fate. So many dystopian books follow the big heroines and heroes who escape/bring down the government/etc., it's easy to forget that in that situation, maybe most of us would be Kathys and Tommys... Have you seen the film adaptation? It's a really good compliment to the book I think, though a lot of stuff is left out. Thanks for sharing the review, really enjoyed it, especially your final note! :)

    1. True! Yep, all those dystopians nowadays (Shatter Me, Legend, & dare I say it, The Hunger Games) all have the same core story. Never Let Me Go is truly heart-breaking, not an adventure or revolutionary story like others, but just simple narration. I have the dvd but I haven't seen it yet. I've watched the trailer several times though and the child actors look amazing! Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. I liked "Never Let Me Go" too!(: it wasn't as "boomz" or very intriguing but yea, the concept and stuff is nice(:


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