Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro book cover
The plot of Never Let Me Go (2005) is revealed slowly but, in keeping with many of Ishiguro’s other novels, deals with repression, blind obedience, and the heavy load that life can place on one’s shoulders. The novel follows Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy as they move through Hailsham, their idyllic but mysterious boarding school, to their adult lives as ‘carers’ and ‘donors’. The truth of the trio’s existence is gradually uncovered through Kathy’s understated narrative as she looks back over their short lives, creating a personal and moving story.

Although the novel deals with scientific dilemmas and great moral ambiguities, the human condition is Never Let Me Go’s most important theme. The main characters all carry a heavy burden and their struggle to deal with the patchy knowledge they have, and the slow erosion of hope as the inevitability of their destiny becomes clearer, is symptomatic of a much wider human frailty. In Ishiguro’s customary style, the characters repress their emotions and deal internally with the cruel inequity of their lives, leaving them with a pallid existence. Ultimately, the quiet acceptance of one’s life and the failure to more violently resist its passing is challenged.

As ever Ishiguro’s prose is gentle and perfectly paced; through Kathy’s narration, the story is revealed with beautiful subtlety. By splitting the novel into two distinct periods in the characters' lives (their time at Hailsham, and their adult lives) the fragility and shortness of their young lives is emphasised.

Never Let Me Go is one of Ishiguro’s most readable novels and his finest study of repression since The Remains of the Day. Some readers might find the plot twists a little predictable, but the real beauty is in the perfectly observed psychology of the central characters and the significance for one’s own life.

I have to admit, this is probably my favourite Ishiguro novel. I found the whole story heart-breaking and the suffocating repression displayed by the central characters so perfectly evocative of the human condition.

Useful Links
Reviews of Never Let Me Go on Amazon (UK)
Film Adaptation of Never Let Me Go on Amazon (UK)

You Might Also Enjoy...

Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Remains of the Day (1989) is a simple, heart-breaking story of personal repression and missed opportunities. The novel is narrated by Stevens, an English butler clinging on to old world gentility while the world around him embraces the new... [Read More]