Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro: Book Review

never let me go kazuo ishiguro book review
Never Let Me Go Book Cover Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro
Adult Fiction, Science Fiction
Vintage Books
August 31, 2010

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

What if I told you that everything you remember about your childhood was a lie; that you only exist in the secondary sense; and that the value of your life was dependent on another’s? That is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Situated in dystopian England, Never Let Me Go paints a rather harrowing picture of the children at the Hailsham institution, whom we learn are not of our world. They know only about life what their “guardians” teach them; they do not share our human experience and their lives have already been mapped out before them.

The children of Hailsham are reared to live a colorless, ordered life. At this point, you’re probably thinking these kids are some sort of robots or something, and that wouldn’t be entirely true if it weren’t for the fact that they are capable of interpreting emotions like love, grief, desire and jealousy. These are all very common themes that play out in this disturbing tale that follows three childhood friends — Ruth, Kathy and Tommy — and their learning to germinate in a world that was not designed for them to exist in the first place.

Ishiguro’s novel thrusts three comrades into a reality that is nothing like Hailsham, a reality that unpacks the many secrets and lies they’ve been taught as and deprived of in their youth. Together, these friends are confronted with the unspeakable desire of wanting to be people of purpose, of substance, but later learn it’s only a matter of wishful thinking.


This book is frighteningly-good. This was one of the most beautifully-written, heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever read my entire life. The fact that it just so happens to be dystopian sci-fi was an added pleasure; I’ve never been interested in science fiction myself, but Ishiguro has sparked my curiosity with this book.

Being honest here: I watched the film adaptation of this book in my sophomore year of college before I ever knew it was a book first. So one day I picked this copy up at a Barnes & Noble because I was finding something different and I recognized the title from the film I’d watched a year or so before.

Ishiguro is a breathtaking writer. This entire book is weaved with staggering prose that really moves the spirit in an unbelievable way; I couldn’t put this book down even if I wanted to. It’s by a pure stroke of genius that Ishiguro captures the raw essence of hopeless love in this book, and it truly left me in despair knowing how it ended. Even so, this book is all the more brilliant for its ending; there’s a sense of closure that the reader feels one that final page. I couldn’t recommend this title enough!

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Paris Close
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Founding Editor. Give me Gillian Flynn or give me death.