Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)

Release: 2005
Release: 2005
Never Let Me Go is often described as a must read, or at least I often hear it described this way. When it was first released it was short listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was even made into a film soon after its release. Time Magazine went so far as to even call it the best novel of 2005. All of this praise and these awards is enough to spark interest in most readers, but what kept me at bay was the description and the film’s trailer. There wasn’t much there to entice me, and the film looked like a romantic slow burner to say the least. What caught me by surprise was its inclusion in the Sci-fi genre. There was nothing in the trailer or description that led me to believe it was Sci-fi. Reading a bit more about the book led me to discover that it only faintly fits into the Sci-fi genre. Its Sci-fi-ness is incredibly important to the plot, but for most of the book its role seems ambiguous and almost non-existent. Its place in the light Sci-fi genre and all the praise I have heard over the years was finally enough to get me reading it, and I’m glad I did.

Much of the story reads about the protagonist Kathy’s school life and her relationships with her classmates and friends. At the start we know Kathy has become a carer, but she tells the story of her school days in flash back. It doesn’t take long to notice something at the school is amiss and this applies to the novels vague Sci-fi-ness. By the end of the first part I had a pretty good idea of where the story was going, but felt compelled to carry forward just the same. The second third of the novel covers her life after the boarding school but before her job as a carer and further expands on her relationship with her best friends Tommy and Ruth. Their relationship reads a bit angsty, but this is to be expected based on the characters’ ages. The dialogue and relationships are incredibly vivid and believable, and this makes the characters feel real. Ishiguro does an great job of developing them. The book drags a bit early on and much of the memories Kathy brings up seem a bit pointless, but by the end they all clearly have their place.

What I found most enjoyable was Ishiguro’s ability to create a book with such atmosphere. The nostalgia Kathy feels much like my own and though her experiences are vastly different I found this captivating. There entire book reads like it is seeped in sadness and fond memories. Ishiguro captures the feeling well and establishes a common sadness that comes with growing up and growing apart. The slow pace of the novel increases this feeling as it develops the characters’ relationships better. When they get older and naturally we feel a similar sadness at the new distance between them. It is something everyone can relate to. I argue that everyone has felt this and the urge to try and hold onto our past lives and past friends.

I don’t want to reveal too much so I will leave it at that. Kazuo Ishiguro has written a beautiful book. Never Let Me Go was far better than I could ever have hoped and I know I will be thinking of it fondly for long time to come. I highly recommend everyone pick it up. It doesn’t have a lot to offer Sci-fi fans but don’t let that discourage you. I hope you will find it as beautiful as I did. I’d give it 5 out of 5 stars.


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