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Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

“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 I thought:

I’m very conflicted about this one. There were aspects of this I really enjoyed, but I feel like the parts that didn’t work for me outweigh them just a little bit.

Never Let Me Go was intriguing, at least in the beginning. I wanted to know what happened next, but the big reveal of why Kathy and the others are special actually comes quite early into the book, and after that there were no more plot twists or surprises.

It’s well written and I enjoyed the prose, but Kathy had a habit of rambling which made some of the paragraphs quite long. The plot itself is relatively disturbing, but I think I must have read too many twisted stories lately because I didn’t find it all that dark.

I stayed beside her like that for as long as they let me, three hours, maybe longer. And as I say, for almost all of that time, she was far away inside herself. But just once, as she was twisting herself in a way that seemed scarily unnatural, and I was on the verge of calling the nurses for more painkillers, just for a few seconds, no more, she looked straight at me and she knew exactly who I was.

Ishiguro has an incredible understanding of the human mind and motivations. For me that was the highlight, because the characters were very human and believable in their actions. In a way this is a fantastic study of human behaviour and of why we do the things we do, and even of why we react one way when we mean to do another. I found that part of it fascinating!

Then again, nothing much happened for most of the book and I didn’t find it exciting. It was all very predictable, and because their fates are determined so early on there’s no real reason to root for them. You know what’s going to happen from maybe a third through the book.

For once (and I doubt you’ll ever read me type this again) the film actually worked better for me in some respects. You don’t get the humanity of it like you do in the book (and that was my one highlight, don’t forget), but you don’t get the rambling, either, and the plot moves on faster.

It’s nice, but it lacked excitement. I can recommend this for the human psyche aspect of it, but if you’re looking for something fast-paced with plot twists and surprises around every corner this may not be for you.


Have you read Never Let Me Go? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

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7 Comments

  1. I just read Nocturnes, from Ishiguro, and nothing much happens either in there! The writing isn’t bad and the characters are interesting, but I feel there’s a hole where the plot should be! Great review!

    • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

      That sums it up nicely! When my library had a clear out I kept A Pale View of Hills but I’m not as tempted now :/

  2. Agree, the movie worked better for me as well (saw movie first, and then read book). I think the movie touched me more on an emotional level (then again, I’ve seen someone say that the movie was emotionally manipulative…), while in the book it all felt distant and cold, like you put it: no reason to root for them.

    I did like the connection made between art (anykind of creativity) and soul, that’s something I’ve carried with me since watching Never Let Me Go.

    Overall, I’ve read a few others of Ishiguro and I desperately want to love his works, but for some reason there’s always something missing, not quite reaching to me.

    • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

      Distant and cold is a good way to put it. It hasn’t made me want to read other books by him, especially because others have since said that his other books are written in the same style. It’s just a bit too slow for me, I need more action 🙂

  3. I hate rambling characters/ narrators. I end up skipping chunks to get to story. Shame you didn’t find much in the story either. The cover is remarkably similar to the cover of If I Stay by Gayle Forman. So much so, I double checked the authors.

    • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

      I looked it up after reading your comment and wow, they really are similar! :O

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