Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Title/Author: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Publisher/Year/Pages: Vintage 2006; 228 pages.
How I got this: Bought it.
Why I read it: The College Students group (on Goodreads) that I created/moderate picked it as the August group read and I’m just now getting to it..
Rating: See my final thought below. I give it four stars.

Set in dystopian England, Never Let Me Go tells the story of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy and their experiences from childhood and adolescence at their secluded boarding school told from the perspective of a grown-up Kathy reflecting on this time in her life. It deals intimately with your typical coming of age experiences but, like all dystopian novels, there are some very strange and mysterious aspects to their school and their lives–unexplained rules and happenings and being told of how “special” they all are.

I have to say that from pretty early on I was just completely fascinated by this society and wanted to know everything there was to know! But the way Ishiguro writes this novel was very incongruous to my need-to-know-everything-now attitude. I’ve always read reviews that describe a story as “controlled” and I’ve never really understood what that meant but this novel is the epitome of a controlled story. You get bits and pieces of this dark cloud of a mystery that is just hanging over the whole story. He’ll bait you with some enticing little tidbit that lets you in on their world and then just keep reeling you along, slowly handing out clues and small fragments of the bigger picture. It was completely effective and I was on the edge of my seat screaming, “Come on Ishiguro– I WANT THE WHOLE ENCHILADA!“..but in a good way! But in the end, this method of giving you bits and pieces was effective because I felt like, at the end, we find ourselves completely up to speed with the main characters. We are finally at a place where we understand everything that they do about their lives and I felt the emotion that they did as soon as things were revealed to them about who they were. I felt their horror and sorrow.

I was really irked because I’m normally that annoying person that figures out the twist in a movie before everyone else and I couldn’t figure this out right away! My boyfriend always groans while watching CSI with me because I always figure out the killer early on. I digress. But anyways, it took me a while to kind of figure out the mystery behind everything and why these students were so “special.”

It took me a little bit to get used to the way it was written from Kathy’s memories. It was quite jarring in some ways and she’d literally be talking about something and then skip off into another memory and then realize that she needed to finish her point from before and go back to it. It wasn’t at all in a linear manner. It takes some getting used to. Not going to lie. But then I was sitting there thinking about it, about halfway through the book, and realized that that is exactly how memories are. I often find myself going from one thing and then some other memory is triggered. After that I thought about it a bit differently. The writing itself was really accessible and craftily done but don’t let that fool you..this is an incredibly DEEP and moving novel.

I really found myself moved by this story and can’t wait to see the movie but know that I’m going to bawl like a baby considering I did after watching the previews for it upon finishing the book. The ending was so heartbreaking and moving. Without saying too much, this book would be an excellent platform to talk about some ethical issues and it raises many questions that I’ve found myself asking before. This book, to me, seemed much more realistic than other dystopian novels. I caught glimpses of our society in the proverbial mirror while reading this novel. And that is scary!

My final thought: Should you read this book? That depends. If you are intrigued because it is a dystopian sort of novel–don’t expect a Hunger Games or anything fast-paced like that. This story just isn’t that. It doesn’t have a loud rebellion but focuses on quieter “rebellions” and characters who might not try to fix their destiny or the world. If you are looking for a non-brainbusting piece of literary fiction that has elements of science fiction and dystopian society full of suspense and the inner workings of human beings, then I’d say go for it!

I’m reallllly getting into these dystopian novels! Any suggestions??

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I expected too much from this book because of the reviews, so maybe that's why it felt flat to me. It certainly raises scary possibilities.

  2. Aw sad! I had heard good reviews but it was one of those times where I didn't pay much attention to them so I didn't have any expectations for it!

    I was telling my stepdad about the book and the ending and we realized that it probably isn't that far out of an idea!

  3. Becky (Page Turners) says:

    Reminsd me of how I feel sometimes reading Margaret Atwood.

    Sadly, this is an author I have not ever tried, although I have Remains of the Day sitting on my bookshlef waiting for me to pick it up.

    You made this one sound fantastic though, seems like the kind of thing I would normally enjoy

  4. Music4Betty says:

    Am I the only one is has never heard of this book? It sounds pretty good. Nice review šŸ™‚

  5. Any book that makes you say, "I want the whole enchilada," sounds like a winner to me. Added to my wish list šŸ™‚

  6. I loved this book! Great review! Some other dystopian novels I love are Children of Men by PD James and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

  7. I don't think I've heard of this book but I know with Matched I liked it because it was a bit more slow paced and not as intense.
    If you haven't read Matched I suggest you do so (it comes out the end of Nov). Delirium was also amazing (comes out the beginning of Feb.). Those are two that are completely over the top amazing.

  8. I have this book on Mt. TBR. I'm current reading Ishiguro's Remains of the Day.

    As for dystopian novel suggestions…How about Neuromancer by William Gibson?

  9. My favorite dystopian is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood…there's also a sequel, The Year of the Flood. Both fantastic!

  10. Our thoughts seem to be right in line! I felt the same way about the ending; that last paragraph just killed me and I was bawling. It really is a very plausible scenario.

    Do seek out the movie, if you can find it. It does cut out some things that probably should've been there (the true significance of "Never Let Me Go," for instance), but the performances are fantastic. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield were great as Kathy and Tommy!

  11. TwoBibliomaniacs says:

    Great detailed review! I really enjoyed this book. The way Ishiguro slowly reveals the horrors of his society is fascinating. I though the ending was very emotional too. Iā€™m very interested to see the movie, even though they rarely live up to the books!

  12. Becky– I'm dying to read Remains of the Day!

    Melanie– Haha yes. Not a phrase that gets employed much! This book definitely had me saying that.

    Misha– I'm glad you loved this one. Thanks for the recs! I have Handmaid's Tale but I'll be checking out the other one.

    Candace– I'm DYING to read both of those!

    Tony–Ya know, I've heard alot about that one! Thanks!

    Jen– I've heard fantastic things. I have Oryx and Crake. Didn't realize The Year of the Flood was the sequel!

    Trai– I wish I would have read this with the group. I might start talking about it again so you should jump into the conversation šŸ™‚

    TwoBibliomaniacs– Thanks! That's what I am afraid of..the book was so powerful. I'm afraid that the movie will fall flat!

  13. I only skimmed your review, because I'm getting ready to read this one myself. After waiting for a copy to come in at the library for several months, I came across a used copy for only $1 yesterday and eagerly snatched it up. I'll come back and read your review once I've read the book!

  14. The1stdaughter says:

    Yay! I'm so happy you liked it! I felt the same way about it in regards to the "keep you guessing" bit. I too am always figuring out the endings of movies and books way too soon and this was a breathe of fresh air. Finally a book I didn't guess the ending to in the first 50 pages! Loved it! And so happy you liked it too!

    I've actually heard they did an excellent job with the movie and Ishiguro was heavily involved, so I have high hopes.

  15. Avid Reader says:

    I loved this one too. The Remains of the Day is another excellent one from Ishiguro.

    Also, I'd second The Handmaid's Tale and add The Giver and Fahrenheit 451 to the dystopian list.

  16. Ironically, I'm one of those people who never figure things out ahead of time, and I knew the secret inthe first five pages – in fact, I didn't even think it was meant to be a secret and I included it as part of my synopsis in my review (oops!)…

  17. iubookgirl says:

    I thought the streaming of memories was really well done. I hadn't thought about it in terms of control, but you are absolutely right. It is extremely controlled…kind of like their lives, I suppose.

  18. Audrey (holes In My brain) says:

    i'd love to read this book sometime, i just saw the trailer the other day. it seems like 'one of those books' if you know waht i mean, and those are hit and miss. i'll definitely try to get it from the lbirary though, thank you for the wonderful in-depth review šŸ™‚

  19. I can’t wait to read this book! I think it might be on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, but I’m not sure!

  20. I love this novel! It was after reading this novel that I went back and read all of Ishiguro’s other novels. Ishiguro’s novels are definitely written very softly, none of them very fast-paced. I haven’t seen the movie yet though, but I’m excited to (also because Andrew Garfield is playing Tommy.)


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