Never let me go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Paper Book, 2006

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Vintage International, 2006

Description

Thirty-one-year-old Kathy, along with old friends from Hailsham, a private school in England, are forced to face the truth about their childhood when they all come together again.

Media reviews

Ishiguro is extremely good at recreating the special, oppressive atmosphere of school (and any other institution, for that matter)—the cliques that form, the covert rivalries, the obsessive concern with who sat next to whom, who was seen talking to whom, who is in favor at one moment and who is not.
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The eeriest feature of this alien world is how familiar it feels. It's like a stripped-down, haiku vision of children everywhere, fending off the chaos of existence by inventing their own rules.
"Never Let Me Go" is marred by a slapdash, explanatory ending that recalls the stilted, tie-up-all-the loose-ends conclusion of Hitchcock's "Psycho." The remainder of the book, however, is a Gothic tour de force that showcases the same gifts that made Mr. Ishiguro's 1989 novel, "The Remains of the Day," such a cogent performance.
This extraordinary and, in the end, rather frighteningly clever novel isn't about cloning, or being a clone, at all. It's about why we don't explode, why we don't just wake up one day and go sobbing and crying down the street, kicking everything to pieces out of the raw, infuriating, completely personal sense of our lives never having been what they could have been.

User reviews

LibraryThing member brenzi
Creepy. Repulsive. Abhorrent.

Fascinating. Mesmerizing. Intriguing.

Much like the car crash that you can’t take your eyes off of, this novel had me stymied as to how I felt about it. One minute repulsed and the next fascinated. From “I really like this book” to “I hate this book.”

The story is told by 31 year old Kathy H. and takes place in a dystopian Great Britain where people are cloned for the sole purpose of providing donor organs. Although the author only reveals this through veiled language and doesn’t come right out and confirm it until the last section, it didn’t take very many pages for me to figure this out so I don’t think this is much of a spoiler.

Kathy has reconnected with two old friends, Ruth and Tommy, from her days as a student at a school for “special” children, Hailsham. Their memories of the place include being fenced in and being looked after by “guardians” who emphasize healthy habits. Things happen there that make them suspicious of what the future holds for them, especially the statements of one rogué guardian, but it isn’t until they get to the second stage, the ‘Cottages,” where they are able to explore the world on their own, that the meaning of their life starts to sink in. They are preparing to be “carers” but hold out hope that Ruth and Tommy, as a couple, may be able to get a deferral. Finally, in Book 3, it becomes apparent that all three have followed the traditional route. Ruth and Tommy are now both donors, awaiting their first, second, third and fourth donation of organs, or until they “complete,” Ishiguro’s suggestive euphemism for death.

The writing is straight forward and certainly kept me turning pages. The characters themselves were flat and emotionless by design and the creepiness of the plot was unsettling. So at this point, I’m ambivalent, I still can’t say I liked or disliked the book. Then again, the topic is important and not actually out of the question, which makes it all the more….well….creepy. Enter at your own risk.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
In his dystopian, futuristic book Brave New World Aldus Huxley quoted from Shakespeare's play The Tempest using the words of Miranda:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in't!

When reading Ishiguro's book, I couldn't help but think of Brave New World.

Never Let Me Go will haunt me for a long time. Last year, when reading The Adoration of Jenna Fox, and when I recently read Unwind, I had the same feelings and thoughts, ie how far will society go to make the perfect human; to what extent do we compromise the process of natural death, replacing it with a brave new world of those with new organs, limbs and "souls."

This is a remarkable tale that is deceptively slow moving. Each nuanced sentence is a marvel, each paragraph and chapter gently unfolds while paradoxically hitting with a punch.

Told through the voice of the character Kathy H, we feel as though we are chatting with her over a cup of coffee as she tells her story, engaging us with her tale of childhood, of adulthood and of discovering the fate that will eventually unfold.

With Kathy, we are transported to dystopian Britain where enclaves of sequestered young people live in community. Through tidbits of information we learn they are clones whose sole purpose in life is for the harvesting of their organs.

As Kathy and her two friends Ruth and Tommy leave one part of their life, they are transported to cottages wherein they begin to have contact with the outside world. Again, through veiled comments and secrets, they discover that this second phase is to prepare them for the process of "Donation."

Welcome to the world of the future wherein the term "The Haves and the Have Nots" takes on an entirely different meaning than the reference of today.
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LibraryThing member jburlinson
SPOILER ALERT (Please note the irony) -- Some have wondered why the clones don't rebel against their fate, or at least simply walk away from their destiny. My take on this: Ishiguro has written an extended parable concerning the fate 99.9% of all living persons share. Granted, we're not all engendered to donate organs to the wealthy, but we are all bred to serve a system that rewards those at the very tippy top of the economic pyramid. (How brilliant is the fact that not one of the benefciaries of the system ever appears in the novel, just as they never appear in the lives of us real people.) Some few of us, like the pupils at Hailsham, are brought up with the illusion that our education, talents, emotional experiences, etc. have some sort of value in the larger scheme. By the time we hang up our spurs, we know different. Most living souls (from the third world to the first) only struggle to achieve that flimsy illusion, if they haven't simply had the common sense to accept early on the fact that their lives are futile.

Watching a young girl dancing by herself in a dream of romantic love and fulfilment is a heartbreaking experience to anyone who knows what her future inevitably looks like. I find it heartening to hear about the large number of school children who simply decide to *bleep* the future and get whatever they can out of what's on offer right now.

The fact that most of us haven't made that choice and have decided to plod, plod, plod along like stupid dray horses, is the answer to the question why the characters in this novel don't pull some sort of "Logan's Run".
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LibraryThing member EnriqueFreeque
I think what's most remarkable about this novel lies outside the page, in what Ishiguro does not explicity state. Ishiguro tells us of a boarding school -- Hailsham -- and follows the lives over time of several characters who lived there, relaying their experiences from the first person perspective of one of its former students, Kathy, and her take on their experiences together. But that is all Ishiguro reveals to us; we do not know the full backdrop to the story nor the behind-the-scenes sociopolitics which made the existence of a place like Hailsham possible in the first place. We witness what appears an ordinary boarding school at first glance, slowly, almost imperceptibly, transform before our very eyes into a boarding school straight out of the X-Files, as subtle clues, hints & ominous foreshadowings become revealed. Something's obviously amiss in this parentless world of boarding school students, something (but what?) is slightly askew here, off kilter, Outer Limitish. And once we fully fathom the world Ishiguro has depicted here in concise language that's poetic & all the more profound in its childlike understatedness, full of deep longing & innocence, a nagging sense of disquiet, sadness and, for me (and maybe you too) moral outrage soon ensues.

How dare they!? How dare they do that to them! To these innocent children!!

Never Let Me Go is loaded with chilling philosophical/ethical dilemnas & spiritual conundrums, reminiscent of what Rod Serling accomplished in his Twilight Zone vignettes. Describing the plot in greater detail would ruin the experience of Never Let Me Go. I had the misfortune of seeing a certain tag for this novel before I read it and so knew beforehand what the "secrets" were. Wish I hadn't seen that stupid tag, because the slow mind blowing waves of realization when they break would've hurt a lot worse had I entered the novel naive. I recommend reading Never Let Me Go ignorant of its designs, aware only that once you do know what Hailsham and its students represent, you might wish you didn't.

I believe Never Let Me Go, in 50 years, will be looked back upon in a similarly reverent fashion as we now look back upon Brave New World, We, & 1984. Instant classic in my book.

And a final word on the title. The title's taken from a song the protagonist, Kathy, discovered on a cassete tape and loved as a child. The song, "Never Let Me Go," touched her deeply. The title, of course, is a pun, referencing not only the obscure song but also speaking to what's in the heart of Kathy, what she wants to hold onto as a person, her identity. "Never let me go" is a plea resonating in Kathy's soul; a plea she's made to herself at some point; a plea (if I may jump inside Kathy's mind for a moment) "for me to remain me", but is this a plea that's possible and can ultimately be heeded? Guess you'll have to read it to find out.
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LibraryThing member arthos
This book reminds me of a meticulous description of a Fabergé egg, where, as the description proceeds, one realizes that the incidental fragments reflected in the surface sum up to a scene of unspeakable carnage. The eyes of the narrator never leave the egg - what speaks most loudly is what is not said.

The book is mostly a description of a rather idyllic adolescence at an English boarding school, centering around a closely observed triangle of relationships. There is plenty of interest and drama, and yet a curious mutedness. Even in the relationships among the protagonists, more is communicated by what is not said than by what is said.

The author's control, and his ability to reveal the truth in exquisitely small steps, is unparalleled.
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LibraryThing member blakefraina
A good book is rarely about what it’s about, if you know what I mean. If Moby Dick was just a story about some one-legged guy hunting a whale, do you really think it would be considered a classic?

Prior to its release I heard an interview on NPR with the author of Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. I was surprised that he spoke openly about the novel’s subject matter because, when you read the book itself, the fact that these school children are clones, raised to donate all their organs to others, is not revealed up front. It was then I realized that this was no cheap M. Night Shymalan stunt and that Ishiguro had a more universal meaning in mind when he wrote this. I suggest that potential readers ignore those critics who see this book as a dystopian vision of medical science gone awry. It’s not that, believe me.

Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are students at Hailsham, a boarding school in some remote corner of England. Hailsham is also an orphanage of sorts, because the children have lived there all of their lives, having been raised by their "teachers." The reader understands pretty quickly the nature of their future role in society and, as such, the entire novel seethes with an underlying mood of bleak horror without ever getting truly mired in it until very close to the end. One reads with a kind of grim fascination as these kids obsess over the minutiae of their lives - what pop album to buy at the semi-annual Sale held at the school, whether or not their artwork would be chosen for display in the mythical gallery, their petty squabbles and school yard romances. Even after they learn the truth, these things still matter to them, leading the reader to wonder why. How can they care about such nonsense when faced with such a dire and inescapable fate?

But isn’t that life?

Don’t we all fill our lives with meaningless clutter in order to avoid contemplating death? The kids at Hailsham are living their lives, facing the inevitability of death and coping in the same way we all do. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter the manner in which anyone dies - the simple fact is, we all die and we all spend our lives trying to drown out the thought of it with the clamor and clatter of the mundane. Toward the end of her story, the narrator, Kathy, finds love with a fellow student and they attempt to bargain their way out of their fate, but this episode is hardly depicted as an angry rebellion against an evil and cold-hearted government, but rather a simple questioning, in the same way a dying person questions or bargains with God.

This is a thought provoking book, quiet in its power. Read it before you see the film. Better yet, read it instead of seeing the film.
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LibraryThing member lauranav
An interesting comment about my reading. As I was devouring this book tonight at one point I stopped and noticed how great the font was. Very pretty and easy to read. I even wondered if there was a note in the book somewhere about what the font was. I was very pleased to reach the end of the book and find A Note on the Type that talked about the font being a variations of the Bembo typeface.

As for the story, I won't get into spoilers but there are plenty of comments that will give you a slight idea before you start. The story almost requires that so that you have some framework to fit it into as it is revealed. The narration is a little disjointed and jumps in time a bit, just like it would if someone sat down and started telling you something and then realized that they had to go back even further so it would make sense.

I found the real thread of the story was life in community. The years of the children in the boarding school are a study in how they relate to each other and how they conspire with the adults to not dwell on the uncomfortable topics. Then there is the atmosphere of the farmhouse where some of them stay after they leave the boarding school. And finally the community where the caretaker no longer has as much in common with old friends as the people in the nursing home have with each other.

For many reasons, it is a lonely story in the end.
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LibraryThing member nittnut
Never Let Me Go is labeled as science fiction. It's more of an Orwellian or Aldous Huxley science fiction than a Wells or Heinlein science fiction.

I am still not certain if the main issue of the book - human cloning - was meant to be obvious to the reader or not. As a device, meaning that the reader understands the problem but the characters in the book are still trying to figure it out, it was interesting.

The story revolves around three main characters. The narrator Kathy, Kathy's best friend Ruth and the boy they both like, Tommy. We follow them as they grow up at boarding school and start to realize who they are and what it means for their future.
Kathy discusses the problem with the reader in a very personal way throughout the story. It felt like being in one of those "girlfriend" conversations where one of the women is trying to figure something out, but it takes awhile, and there are a lot of tangents.

I liked Kathy. In many ways, she is more realistic about life than the others. Of course, we also get to know her better. Tommy seemed like the pawn. He was useful to Kathy or Ruth for pointing out certain things, but he was fairly helpless. Even when he had an idea or theory of how to change something, still Kathy or Ruth had to be the ones to take action. Ruth is the dreamer. She is resigned to her fate, but she invents different endings to her story so she can cope. Just to get it out of my system, I have to wonder how anyone put up with Ruth for this entire story. Ruth is just absolutely impossible.

Some book group discussions that I could see happening after reading this book:
1. Human cloning - yes or no?
2. How do you determine the quality or value of a soul?
3. Why does being soulless result in being denied choices?
4. Is it kind or unkind to hide the horrible truth from someone, if knowing might hurt them?
5. How does being or not being part of a group define you, and why would someone want to be part of a group when there is no real benefit other than belonging?
6. How important is timing in relationships?
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LibraryThing member baubie
As I read Never Let Me Go, I often found the narrative annoying and distracting. Scenes that seemed irrelevant and boring kept getting in the way of finding out the details of this fictional world. When I finished the book, however, I appreciated this writing style. Ishiguro makes you feel like one of the students throughout the book in two ways. First, you know only what they know and the rational for this isn't just to make a suspenseful story, but also to feel the anxiety and tension these characters must feel at times. Second, the dialog and inner thoughts of Kathy and others are so raw and true that you can actually feel like you are experiencing the emotions being described. In this sense, this is a very well told story that I am glad to have read.

That said, the one thing holding me back from loving this book was that it did not feel evenly paced. As the story progressed, more and more is revealed about the characters and the world they live in until finally, in several pages of almost pure monologue, all the details get spilled out right before the book ends. This just felt unnatural to the rest of the story to me and it almost wasn't necessary. This doesn't ruin the book but it did stick out.
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LibraryThing member SqueakyChu
I was warned prior to reading this book that there would be a spoiler at the beginning of the book which might intefere with my enjoyment of the story. I did not find that to be the case at all. I found the story to be engaging in a way that made me want to read further without a lapse at any point in the story.

This is the story of three young people (Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy) at a private school in England and how their relationship to each other developed over the course of their lives. No, I will not give you the spoiler here in my review. What I did think, though, is that the “hook” that makes this an unusual story should not have been foreshadowed in the beginning (as it was only too obvious what it meant), but it should have been revealed much later in the novel. That aside, I also could not understand why Kathy and Ruth were friends at all. Theirs was such a contentious relationship!

The novel itself is interesting in a thought-provoking way. I’m sorry that the novel mostly centered on the characters' relationships and did not delve further into their more specific roles later in life. I liked this novel, though. Even the long-winded explanations given by the narrator, Kathy, of what life was like for her during her school years.
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LibraryThing member msf59
Be forewarned, I will be intentionally vague in describing this novel. I found a deep satisfaction in peeling away the layers of this thought-provoking story, having absolutely no clue what was lurking just over the hill and I want to pass on a little of that joy. All I will reveal, is that this involves a group of English children, raised in a special boarding school and it’s shocking aftermath. Reading this book was like assembling a creepy puzzle, working from the sketchy borders inward and what slowly reveals itself is both haunting and heart-breaking. Sorry to be such a spoiled-sport, but thems the breaks!… (more)
LibraryThing member dandelion1
Takes an intimate look at the harrowing experience existing to fill medical needs of another, more priveleged group of society. Being a clone is like another kind of slavery. Book brings to light the issues of humanity based on birth origin in a futuristic way. Reads at a very slow pace. I was a bit annoyed with the fact that all is implied, rarely a direct discussion of the topics. This is the author's strength and fits the topic well, but it was a turn off for me. I am not a Ishiguro fan. I finished the book in spite of the strange uncomfortable intimacy between clones which is used to reveal the story, rather than enjoying the relationships between them as would be my normal experience. I also kept reading because of the suspense created by the lack of discussion of a hot topics -- genetics, medicine, cloning. Thought provoking yet annoying book.… (more)
LibraryThing member KAzevedo
Many have called this book Science Fiction and in fact, the science that underlies the story IS still fiction. But perhaps, not for much longer. However "Never Let Me Go" is one of the most subtly written books of speculative fiction that I have ever read. The narrator is Kath, a young women who reminisces about her childhood growing up at as a "student" at a special school. Aside from some references to being special and some strange actions by some of the "guardian" teachers, it seems a fairly ordinary existence with the typical cliques forming, and the day to day trivia of school and life. Later in life, in her career as a "carer", Kath meets up again with her closest childhood friends and begins to think more deeply about their experiences. Together, the three friends set upon a course that could change the prescribed life for two of them.

We learn, in the same way the students at the school learn, the destiny of these children. They are given information at an early age about what they are being raised for, but they don't really KNOW in any meaningful way. They are being indoctrinated to accept what to us is a horrifying life and end. But to the students, it becomes ordinary, acceptable, and normal. This is the magic of the book. We learn that the children are clones and their purpose is to make "donations" of their organs later in life. We learn, as do they, that this destiny is without recourse, cannot change. There is no question or doubt that this is all life has in store. And because it has become so completely ordinary, there is no sense of horror or any kind or rebellion on the part of the donors, it just is. This to me was the true point of the book. In the right set of circumstances, even the most horrific of actions can be made commonplace and acceptable. So it was a horror story of the best kind.

The language is beautiful, the characters have great depth, and the story is so deceptively simple. But so calmly and quietly are the layers revealed that it seemed all of a sudden that I was spellbound with anticipation as the suspense grew almost unbearable. I will remember and think about this book for many years, as one of the best I have ever read.
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LibraryThing member dczapka
Ishiguro's latest novel, like so many of his others, relies on patient pacing and a subtle sense of wrongness to propel its narrative, and in the case of Never Let Me Go, it is this skill that keeps what should feel like a relatively staid novel suspenseful and engrossing.

Plotwise, there is little worth revealing if Ishiguro's craft is to be admired at its peak. Kathy H., the narrator, is one of a group of students at the "elite" English boarding school Hailsham. The nature of the school, its eccentricities, and the interpersonal relationships amongst the cliques of students are all lent a veil of mystery that is fairly well concealed for roughly the first quarter of the novel.

By the halfway point of the novel, the true meaning of many of the book's veiled incidents and terms are at last revealed, with the remainder of the book dealing with the consequences of these revelations. The deliberateness of the novel's pacing, given that Kathy as a narrator is prone to fits of digression, is Ishiguro's trademark, but one that fits especially well in this plot. The care given to the story's construction is reflected in the moments where earlier events, which seemed to have little significance at the time, have much larger consequences later -- Kathy's reading of porn magazines, for instance, jumps out.

If there's a weakness to the novel, it's in its resolution, which is staged too much like a hero-nemesis matchup to feel as genuine as the rest of the novel, and it's unfortunate that the explanatory section is the one that rings most false. Yet even with its flaws, Never Let Me Go is surprising and surprisingly engrossing.

Like Ishiguro is wont to do, he will bait you very gently, almost imperceptibly, but before this tour de force novel ends, you'll be inextricably hooked.
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LibraryThing member siafl
Fortunate for me, I hadn't the faintest idea what the book's about when I started. So it remained suspenseful throughout and for me that's probably the most important factor for how I rate it now. The language is typically Ishiguro's; in fact when I started I was concerned about whether the intensity of the language would turn me off, because while I enjoyed reading The Remains of the Day I did find it pretty thick.

This was not the case for me with this book at all. It was a page turner, something that I'd never expect from Ishiguro. For me the story was crafted, planned and delivered perfectly. Of course there's something that left me troubled after finishing and I can't articulate what that is. But whether I like the story or not I can't take away from the fact that this book is so well written that it completely grasped me.

Ishiguro has made a powerful statement with this book, one so emphatically troubling. The book has a poetic tone throughout and it created disturbing images in my mind that at times actually made me shudder. It's all very sad.

The book actually reminded me a lot about The Catcher in the Rye that I love so much, minus the humour. What this book has that a lot of other ones lack, is the author's mastery of suspense, making you want to go further to find out about what's happening, but at the same time keeping a very clear roadmap of all things, not just for himself but for the audience as well. I never found myself lost in the flashbacks. In this regard, the book reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife, which gave me a new look and a new appreciation for science fiction. This book did something of the sort for me as well. Its impact on me was only enhanced by the fact that I knew nothing about it at the beginning, other than that it was a near Booker winner.

I think too many people are judging the quality of a book based on whether they like the story or not. While I think to a certain extent that readers are entitled to do that, I think there's a lack of objectivity in doing so. I, like many who have read this book, am disturbed and made sad by it, but I must say that it was exactly what the book had set out to do, and because of that it's exceedingly well written and effective.

That 1/2 star that I retain is for the fact that such depression can't possibly make my absolute favourite list, and for that something troubling, which I can't quite articulate.
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LibraryThing member abealy
Oh how I dislike this book. An age old science fiction premise, executed in monotone. Post-modern fiction is no excuse for lack of affect. The landscape is drab, the characters are all bland and the story, particularly the ending, and paricularly because of the concept, is a disappointment.
LibraryThing member queencersei
Never Let Me Go is a heartbreaking novel centered on the lives of three clones that are born and bred to be organ donors. Despite rumor to the contrary, there is no way to defer or escape these donations, which ultimately result in the death of the clone.

Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are raised in an exclusive type of boarding school in England. The school seems normal enough at first, except that the children of the school never leave it and are kept fairly isolated from the outside world. Gradually the truth of what there are and the inevitability of their deaths are conveyed to them. Surprisingly the clones seem to make the most of their strange lives. As they grow and leave their school they integrate somewhat into larger society. They have likes and dislikes, personal relationships and somewhat fulfilling lives. But in the end, they must become donors and their acceptance of this fate is possibly the most disturbing element of the novel.

It was that very acceptance that left me with the most questions. Why do none of the clones say no? Or try to run away, possibly to another country? Presumably it would be possible. But there is never a mention of one trying to do so. Wouldn’t at least a certain percentage become despondent and attempt suicide rather than be slowly carved apart over a period of years by doctors? Were the clones engineered to be more passive and less aggressive then standard humans to keep their chances of rebelling low? These questions aren’t addressed and it is a shame, because it would have given some clarity to the story. However, while certainly sad, Never Let Me Go is certainly worth reading.
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LibraryThing member hokiekate
This book was about horrible peaople who had horrible things done to them. The book itself wasn't horrible, but it wasn't exactly enjoyable.
LibraryThing member wyeknow
The author fails to explore the central question of the essential humanity of the cloned children. Their creations in art and literature, the best of which were taken for display in "The Gallery" by Madame, seemed to be a de facto argument by Ishiguro that Kathy C and her fellow students were fully human. Yet he leaves the questions of morality arising from society's use of the student's bodies as disposable parts factories solely to the reader. This disappointed me, for as the book progressed, I had hoped for a more in-depth exploration of what constitutes true humanity. Every living organism has survival as it's most basic drive, and that had somehow been surpressed in these cloned children. Unlike other animals raised for human consumption, they were fully aware of the future that awaited them, yet did nothing. They never considered an attempt to escape what they knew awaited them. Is that, in itself, proof that the morality of harvesting their organs is no more questionable than killing cattle for their meat?

With no exploration of the many issues raised by the basic premise of the novel, it became for me a rather nonotonous observation of the prattlings of self-absorbed teenagers. A very disappointing book.
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LibraryThing member harristwd
What a masterful way of disclosing information as the book unfolded. There's not much to say about the content/plot that hasn't been said before. Feelingwise- it left me sad, which is testament to the power of the book. My book club read this and will be discussing it soon. I'd highly recommend it for a book club as there is so much to discuss on so many levels.… (more)
LibraryThing member SamuelW
The title may seem odd at first, but as Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go unfurls its scrupulously guarded secrets, one comes to realise just how appropriate it is. Softly, subtly, the writing insinuates itself into the reader's mind, where it becomes something far greater than the sum of its quiet memories and musings. It is not until one sets Kathy's tale aside for a moment that one begins to appreciate the essence of this exquisite novel – and with this inevitable reflection comes the awareness that Never Let Me Go has indeed clung, with silent tenacity, to the innermost depths of the mind. Through every paragraph of every chapter, Ishiguro considers the input of his reader, and constructs his prose accordingly, exercising the utmost control. He considers how we will react, what we will feel, and how complete a picture of his world we will build from the information that he has given us. As though communicating on a subconscious level, he is able to plant knowledge, emotion and understanding without overtly communicating any of these things. Through subtle implication, repetition, withholding of information and a constant repression of the truth, this novel delivers a lingering and ultimately heartbreaking impact.

Though all the stages of life are dealt with in turn, it is the deconstruction of Ishiguro's characters, and therefore the deconstruction of the human mind itself, that forms the heart of this novel. The subject matter may lean towards science fiction, but the author's approach refuses to follow; the humanity of his protagonists is never called into question for a moment. They are simply too real for that. Such is the perceptiveness and complexity with which he brings them to life that all of us will find something of ourselves in them, and ultimately feel the atrocity of the wrong done to them with profound intensity.

Indeed, it is perhaps Ishiguro's refusal to examine the mechanics of his scenario – his persistent focus on its human, emotional aspects – that make the novel so universally engaging. It is a study of humanity that seems, itself, to be human; a portrait of repression that is, itself, repressed; a tale of careful avoidance that carefully avoids its own ideas. It is a novel realised through memories and feelings that is utterly memorable and heartfelt – and, as the title promises, its resonating after-effects will never quite let you go.
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LibraryThing member bkwurm
In A Nutshell

Simple, subtle, and insidious. The most horrifying parts are the ones that are the most familiar.

The Whole Enchilada

Never Let Me Go is a book I couldn’t stop reading, and one I'm not going to be able to stop thinking about for quite some time. On the surface it can almost come off as a simple love triangle, although the circumstances obviously make the story so much more; and beyond the story itself, the moral and societal issues brought up in the book are hardly the kind of thing you can sweep under the rug after reading the last page. The story of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy is a centuries-old one: two girls, one boy, love, uncertainty and betrayal. On its own there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the triangle between these three young adults; it’s the dark secret that underlies their very existence which makes this story so compelling.

You see, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy aren’t just your average lovelorn teenagers; they each have an important and specific purpose which they absolutely cannot escape or deviate from. It is this purpose, what it means and how they gradually come to terms with it, which sets their love triangle apart from all others. Each of their decisions and reactions takes on much more weight and importance than you might otherwise find. It is the contrast of this simple and recognizable story set in such amongst such utterly disturbing circumstances that makes it so powerful, and so impossible for the reader to put down.

Ishiguro proves that he is a master storyteller with Never Let Me Go. It’s clear from the very first sentence that there is something not quite right about the world that our narrator Kathy H. belongs to, but Ishiguro (and Kathy) take their time revealing exactly what that disconnect is. This exquisite restraint is what keeps the reader going, what causes a frisson every few pages, and what makes the careful reader look closely at every seemingly innocent event, every mysterious character, and every curious choice of words.

One of the things that struck this careful reader most strongly by the end of the book was the way vocabulary is almost hijacked by those in power to keep the powerless from rebelling. There is nothing so effective as using a victim’s own language to induce pain, confusion, and submission. The book begins, for example, with this: “My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years... My donors have always tended to do much better than expected... hardly any of them have been classified as ‘agitated,’ even before fourth donation.” If all of this subversive and incomplete talk of “carers”, “donors” and eventually of “completing” doesn’t disturb you then there’s something wrong. Before the meaning had been revealed I shuddered every time I read the word "Completing;" once I knew for sure what it meant I had to hold back tears every time it cropped up in the story.

Never Let Me Go is both hard to read and too easy to read, all at the same time. It’s an extremely uncomfortable book that tells a story so important and compelling that it is impossible to put down.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jenners26
2 words that describe the book―Slow-dawning Dystopia

3 setting where the book took place or characters I met

* Setting: England, late 1990s

* Kathy H. is the narrator of this book, which is primarily about her experiences at a boarding school called Hailsham and some of the things that happened to her after leaving the school. When we first meet Kathy, she is 31-years-old and is looking back on her time at Hailsham in order to make sense of what happened during her time there. Primarily, she wants to examine the relationship that developed between her, a girl named Ruth and boy named Tommy.

* Ruth and Tommy were two of Kathy's fellow students at Hailsham, and the three of them develop a complex and complicated relationship amongst themselves that changes and morphs several times over the years. It is Kathy's need to make sense of this triangle that prompts her to look back on her days at Hailsham and the events that took place after Ruth, Tommy and Kathy left the school.

4 things I liked or disliked about the book

* I liked how Ishiguro doesn't lay all the cards on the table from the start. Much like Kathy, the reader gets bits and pieces of a puzzle that they need to assemble for themselves as the book progresses. Ishiguro keeps doling out the pieces of the puzzle one at a time--holding back a few key pieces until the end of the book. The puzzle starts on the very first page when Kathy matter-of-factly refers to the fact that she has been a carer for over eleven years. Of course, this term meant nothing to me. "A carer?" I thought to myself. "What the heck is a carer?" Then she starts tossing out other terms--like donations--that begin to create questions in your mind. But then Kathy's story takes on some rather humdrum elements and begins to seem like any other "young people dealing with relationships at a boarding school" book ... but then Ishiguro swoops in and lays another puzzle piece before you that has you wondering just what is going on.

* I liked how Ishiguro created a story that develops on two different levels. One is the story that Kathy is telling us--the story of her experiences and perceptions. But as we gather puzzle pieces and start putting them together in our minds, the reader begins to write another story--a much darker and frightening story than the one Kathy seems to be telling us. It is as if the reader becomes part of the story--filling in the gaps that Ishiguro chooses to leave blank. In many ways, I found the book to be almost an interactive reading experience. It was quite interesting.

* I liked how Ishiguro raises a host of ethical issues without addressing them directly. Instead, Ishiguro comes at things obliquely--laying out ethical dilemmas but leaving them unanswered or offering mixed messages based on how Kathy, Ruth and Tommy view their lives. It was an interesting way to tackle these issues, and I think it makes for a good discussion. My mom read this book at the same time as me, and we ended up getting in a rather lively discussion of the variety of topics raised by the book. It would be a good choice for a book club.

* I disliked not getting MORE details about the dystopic world that Ishiguro creates. Once I realized what was going on, I became thirsty for more information on how this society came about and the logistics of how it functioned. As much as I admire Ishiguro's approach to this book, it also left me feeling dissatisfied. I would have loved a follow-up to this book ... a sort of companion book that described the society that led to the creation of a place like Hailsham and a person like Kathy H.

5 stars or less for my rating:

I hemmed and hawed about what rating to give this book, but I finally decided to give it 4 stars. Although I didn't fall in love with the book, I admire how Ishiguro chose to tell the story. It was a different reading experience, and I have to say I liked it.

I went into this book fairly oblivious about what the story and subject matter was about (and I hope I've managed to avoid any spoilers in my review) so I spent a lot of time in the beginning being confused and uncertain. Now it is possible that I am a bit of a dim bulb and other readers (Amanda ... I'm thinking of you here!) are clued in as to what is going on from the very start. But I suspect that most readers might have the same reading experience I did.

Although this is the type of book that will confuse you, perplex you, frustrate you, annoy you and (sometimes) bore you, in the end, it satisfies you and sticks with you. In fact, I think I like the book better now writing about it a few weeks after reading it than I did when I first read it. If you like to take chances on your reading or would like to see a different approach to how to write a dystopic novel, I would recommend Never Let Me Go wholeheartedly.
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LibraryThing member zibilee
Tucked away in the English countryside, the students of Halisham, a seemingly elite boarding school, live an almost idyllic life. As Kathy H. reminisces on the friendships and rivalries of her early life at Halisham, she also begins to touch on the strange and puzzling aspects of the school and her fellow students. For the students of Halisham are special in some undefined and unknowable way, and their futures are clouded and obscured from themselves and each other. Fed only the most basic information about their unusual lives and circumstances, they are reduced to living lives filled with rumor, conjecture and speculation amid the more typical everyday occurrences of childhood. As Kathy begins to unfold her curious tale that spans the unfathomable years of her adolescence, more and more curious facts about the children come to the surface, and eventually their bizarre fate is unmasked. Both lucid and frightening, Never Let Me Go takes its readers to the borders of an unimaginable world, where nothing is what it seems and peculiar things are hidden in plain view.

This is the kind of book that doesn't make its full impact until a few minutes after you have closed the cover. Written in lush but subdued prose, the narrative seems to unfold with a calmness and clarity that belies the book's true nature. From the outset, Ishiguro seems to be able to do something miraculous with this tale. He begins by describing some very commonplace events in the lives of a handful of students at Halisham, but peeking from beneath the more typical story he begins to interject random flashes of theme that seem almost disconnected and alien to the story itself. As more and more of the students' experiences are related it becomes clear that something "other" is going on, but with touches of brilliant technique, the readers of this story, like the characters themselves, are left on the precipice of understanding, splendidly misdirected into believing that things are just as they appear on the surface.

During the middle sections of the story, when both reader and character are just beginning to understand what is going on, a conversation occurs between the characters that documents just how much and in what ways the truths of their existence have been kept from them. In explaining it to each other, they come to conclude that they have been told, yet not told, about themselves, the facts being released to them at a time when it is almost impossible for them to understand them. Later, when these initial facts have set in, they become similar to ingrained truth and make the monstrous reality seem commonplace. It was at this point that I began to realize that this is exactly what was happening to the reader. It was the perfect specimen of art imitating life and it was one of the things that made the book so distinguished.

There were really two tales going on: the somewhat placid and serene tale of life as a Halisham student, full to the brim with the minutia of friendships, relationships and education, and the hidden and horrendous reality that was taking place underneath. Throughout the story it became clear by degrees what was really in store for these children, but I still found it both shocking and distressing when everything was finally brought to the surface in the last third of the book. Much of what was planned for them was spelled out in a direct way, but most of the horror of these discoveries was based on what was implied about what had been going on and its inevitable conclusion. The full story, once revealed, was extremely sad and I felt that Ishiguro was really able to capture the despondence and unfruitful hope that permeated these characters' lives. It was curious how detached they seemed to be, how resigned and accepting they were as they walked towards their destines. It was only later that I realized that they had no other basis for comparison and that the strange life they led was the only life they had ever known.

The characterization in this book was immaculate as well. Though the characters were meant to be somewhat indistinct, I found that they were all fully formed and that they were easy to identify with because they embodied the characteristics of people I have known throughout my life. That was one of the things that was so haunting about this book: I felt as though I knew these people in some way; one in particular reminded me of a friend I had long ago, so it was all the more disturbing to realize what was in store for them. To see their fate played out was frightening in a way that I tried not to examine too closely. I suppose the closeness I felt to the characters was in itself another of Ishiguro's deft manipulations, and that the book would have lost a lot of its impact if one were not so attuned to the characters' individuality and emotions.

I really loved this book for its intricacy and beautiful construction and think that its an excellent example of literary writing infused with just the right amount of psychological suspense. There is so much to explore within the constructs of this story, and in the end, the discussions that could be had about this book might be almost as complex as the book itself. I would definitely say that this is one of the better books I have read this year and that its subtlety and revelations were created with a master's touch. Reading this book was pleasurable, and in many ways, scary, but I am thankful that I have had the experience. A great read and highly recommended. I would love the chance to explore this book further and hear other's opinions, so if you have read it and would like to discuss it, please let me know!
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
Can I use the word ‘disliked’ for a book that has gotten so much acclaim? It’s on loads of ‘best of’ lists but I was seriously underwhelmed. Now that I’ve gotten this one out of the way I still look forward to moving on to Remains of the Day.

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