Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

“It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed. If I’d known, maybe I’d have kept tighter hold of them and not let unseen tides pull us apart.”

Originally published in 2005, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro follows children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy who were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time, she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special, and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.


I first read this book over ten years ago before seeing the film adaptation, and I always knew that it would be a book that I would frequently want to go back to. I don’t often re-read books, but there are some that you know you will take more away from on a second read, and this one just gets more beautiful every time.

Although the story is part dystopia and part science fiction, my advice is to forget about that before reading this book because it won’t feel like either of those genres and there’s so much more to it. There’s part gothic mystery, there’s part romance, and it’s such an engaging read that lures you in so effortlessly, that you’ll take in the more complex themes with ease.

The dystopian elements almost take a back seat, making its disturbing concepts feel like they are simply the norm, as if they don’t need to be explained or reasoned because that’s just the way things are. And because the truth of what’s going on at Hailsham doesn’t make a big impact and because it isn’t overexaggerated just to create a shock factor, the truth actually hits much harder.

Instead, the ideas are subtly weaved into the narrative to make you do a double-take, to question what you’re reading, and to react more emotionally to what these children knew no differently.

Just the word “Hailsham” gives me shivers. The events that take place here seem calm and innocent at first. But once you know the truth, it casts a massive shadow, as this building suddenly feels like a dark, ominous presence.

I’m in awe of how Ishiguro describes everything so beautifully that you wouldn’t believe the sinister truths, but it all makes so much sense. Kathy and Tommy want nothing more than to understand their place in the world that you can’t help but follow their lead on this journey, and hope that they will find some peace.

It’s rare when a book can take on such a powerful, well-crafted and intricate story so deftly, but Never Let Me Go makes it all look so easy. A firm favourite for me. I can’t fault it.

Never Let Me Go was adapted into a film in 2010, which you can read my film review for here.


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