Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Summary: 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.
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Source: I purchased a paperback.
This is a spoiler free review. If you have not read the book, you can read this review without ruining the plot. But please be on the lookout for spoilers, as many/most reviews seem to have major ones!
Never Let Me Go was a deceptive story, but I mean that in a good way. On the surface, Kathy, as an adult, reminisced about her childhood at a boarding school. The story is about her past and her friendship with Ruth and Tommy. It became a touching and bittersweet recollection, but that was not all there was to Never Let Me Go. The way the story was told was brilliant and wonderfully done. It was not just a story about three friends who grew up together. It was about something else altogether. As Kathy’s memories unfold, as well as her interactions later as an adult, the pieces to the puzzle slowly fit together to reveal the final picture. Never Let Me Go is a shining example of a non-contemporary idea told in a contemporary way to achieve the best possible execution.
I remember seeing the movie a few years back. I remember the short synopsis on TV gave the entire story away and I felt disappointed that I knew what Never Let Me Go was about. I feel somewhat the same way about the book. I really wish I could have erased the knowledge from my head because the story would have probably resonated with me even more. However, despite knowing the full picture of Never Let Me Go, I still enjoyed reading it. In some ways, I think some scenes hit me even harder because I was aware when the characters weren’t really.
The execution and storytelling of the novel were nice and effective. I liked how Kathy reminisced and talked about reminiscing later with Ruth and Tommy and comparing their memories. It was a believable story because it accounted for mistakes in recollection. I love how important moments were woven together as Kathy realized after the events that perhaps they were connected.
The characters were unforgettable. Kathy never once made the same conclusions I did about many of her friends and experiences, which was interesting. I thought Ruth was a terrible friend and a terrible person, but Kathy loved her nonetheless and didn’t see the Ruth in quite the same light. I don’t know if that was supposed to be the effect, but I think perhaps we aren’t supposed to like Ruth. I think it created the whole bittersweet and somewhat melancholy mood as we see the bigger picture of not just the whole story, but of Ruth and the impact of her friendship with Kathy.
I loved how Never Let Me Go unfolded and can be placed into many different genres. It blurred the lines of genre and I think it stands as a book to be read because it is good without expectations or a reader’s general preferences clouding judgment. It explored so many themes. It showed the effects of friendships, guidance, social isolation, and other important aspects of life. It would have been good without the entire… theme… that is later uncovered, but of course, I loved the overall effect. It’s a brilliant novel and I highly recommend it. It lingers with you, leaving a twinge of sadness and hopelessness, but it was an absolutely brilliant novel.
My advice to anyone looking to read this novel is to beware of spoilers. As I said, it is a bit disappointing when you know what it’s ultimately about. Most of the reviews I see say way too much and even the genre it is placed in leaves people who haven’t read it yet wondering why and perhaps expecting a certain twist. I think it’s better to read the book without knowing what to expect.