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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go (edition 2006)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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13,447601162 (3.83)924
Title:Never Let Me Go
Authors:Kazuo Ishiguro
Info:Vintage (2006), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:2009, book club, 1001

Work details

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

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» See also 924 mentions

English (573)  Dutch (6)  Spanish (6)  French (5)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Galician (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (599)
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"The fantasy never got beyond that -- I didn't let it -- and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn't sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it wad I was supposed to be." ( )
  PamZaragoza | Jun 27, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.



There’s something endearing about the title of this novel. It sounds like the ultimate request of someone who is deeply in love, which when not granted, would render the person incapable of going on.

This novel spurred a lot of attention by holding the reputation of being the most recently published book in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Best Novels. It’s exactly that reason it got me reeling. I thought that it should be The Remains of the Day instead, although I only read that after reading this. And the release of Never Let Me Go’s film adaptation only piqued my curiosity further.

I made it a point to read the book first before watching the film. I immediately bought a movie tie-in edition once it was out in the local book stores. Since I read it last year, a lot has already been said, both from the lovers and the haters. I even unofficially moderated a book talk regarding this, and I haven’t written anything about it yet.

So I guess now is the time.

The Rhapsody

My name is Kathy H. That’s the opening line. It’s not exactly something that you would find in the department of great opening lines. But really, there’s a sense of mystery in this simple introduction.

Why is her surname just that, a lone letter? If one does not have an idea on what the novel is about, the reader might think from that introductory sentence that the narrator is a porn star. But all suppositions are dropped as the narrator immediately tells us what she does and how old she is.

She’s a carer. Shouldn’t that be a caretaker, or a caregiver? What difference would it make anyway if she is either one of the two? And what is she caring for?

She’s caring donors. She’s in her thirties, I think. I imagine she’s 31, or maybe 28. I cannot remember, but wherever her age exactly falls between the two numbers, it’s still a relatively short time to live one’s life, even if one is only shooting for the fifties.

So she’s dying? Not yet, but that would be soon enough, especially if she does not do well on her first donation. So there’s a second donation then? Or even more? And why would she donate her organs if that would endanger her life?

Well, that’s the way it is, at least for her, and the likes of her. What is wrong? What is she anyway?

She’s a clone. The film adaptation hastily explains that in their world, the medical sciences have discovered a fool-proof method of cloning humans. Oh, so this novel is science fiction then.

It is, loosely, but a nonreader of science fiction does not even realize this. The scientific framework is almost stripped off the novel, so there’s no talk of the omniscient eyes of Big Brother in 1984 or the explanation on how those drugs work in Brave New World. I think that this in itself is a commendable feat.

Oh, it’s a dystopian novel then. It is. It’s yet another study of a society’s disintegration given a certain set of conditions. The world is cloning people so that people can use the clones’ young, healthy organs to extend their lives. Their human lives. Which explains why Kathy H is rummaging her life before she ends her career as a carer and start a new one as a donor. Could you even call those two as careers?

There’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I haven’t read it yet, but I think it’s about humans falling in love with clones. What reason would there be to read another novel about clones then if you have already read Dick’s novel? I daresay that this is not largely about clones. I think it’s more about people resigning to whatever is left to them. It’s about ceasing to struggle and accepting things as they are, and this could be the more sensible choice.

That somehow explains this notorious question: why didn’t those clones run away and live happily ever after? Security over them is not too tight, and they might have had a chance if they tried, right? Why this helplessness? Why this stupidity?

Final Notes

That question is also raised by book critics, putting it in such a way that made it look like the author overlooked a grand flaw in building a plot. I myself wanted the protagonists to escape, but in the end, I thought it would be a whole different thing if they did escape. I might not even have liked the novel if that happened.

Ishiguro mentioned that he was not interested in the possibility of escaping and rebuilding lives. He was after exactly what he wrote, an exploration of a life doomed, growing up with all these insinuations that you are different, that you have to look for yourself and for your kind, being fed with all the subtleties that not any one of you can be a bus driver or an actor or whatever it is that you hope to be, realizing that you cannot lose a thing that never was yours, realizing still that you can hardly own what was never meant for you, and realizing further that whatever you lost cannot rush back to you in perfect condition on the shores.

That one may only have scraps for a life, and to want more will just break you apart. And to contain all these will surely wring the inner tumult out of your skin. And after that, a sense of disquiet. A wrangling mix of hope and despair. A stillness, disquiet still, and waiting, waiting. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Usually I admire an author's style. Here, I admire the narration and plotting. This is a piece of slipstream ficiton: SF written by a non-genre author and sold outside of the genre. It's also an alternate history: it's our world, in the 80s, but it's off just a little bit from ours. The point of departure is that cloning was developed in the 50s "after the war" (presumably WWII) and is used to create a source for organ donations. The novel is narrated in the first person by someone going through the system for the clones -- or the "students", "carers", or "donors" as they're innocuously called. Because of this, the p.o.v. is limited and the reader is also given a bottom-up view of the system/world, and so there are ambiguities aplenty. This makes the world all that more intriguing. If it had been narrated from an omniscient, top-down view, it would not have been as interesting a read. Too often in "world-building", too much is explained. While questions about medical ethics are at the core, there are others related to art, education, and sex, so it is thematically rich. One discussant labeled NLMG as a "dystopia." I disagreeed: that might be because it didn't have the usual tropes, but also it's also dystopic only for one class, and not overtly. Perhaps it's an insidious dystopia. Style-wise, the use of innocuous and euphemistic language for the system was brilliant. ( )
  AmyMacEvilly | May 27, 2014 |
I'll come out and say that I love Kazuo Ishiguro's body of work. His use of the unreliable narrator is wonderful and I'm constantly kept on my toes trying to guess what is the "truth" of the story. "Never Let Me Go" continues that tradition. The point of view in this novel is from the first person, as it is in all Ishiguro's novels. Here the first person is a young girl in a type of boarding school and the book follows her through her school days and her difficult adjustments in the larger world. It's a quasi-sci-fi story set in an alternate reality where ... oh, I can't say much more without giving it away. Anyway, if you're a fan of Ishiguro, this book does not disappoint. After finishing the book, I skimmed the text again to catch everything I missed the first time through. ( )
  sbloom42 | May 21, 2014 |
I could not put this book down!

I don't want to give away what this book is about, but even if I were to do that, I'd be misdirecting potential readers. It "does not mean what you think it means." There is an overarching social theme that pushes the plot of this novel, but the book is really all about its characters. They're so exquisitely, realistically written, and I was sucked into the book immediately. I loved it. ( )
  fefferbooks | May 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 573 (next | show all)
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.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Anita Desai (pay site) (Nov 22, 2005)
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.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, John Harrison (Feb 26, 2005)

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kazuo Ishiguroprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landor, RosalynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Novarese, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
At the age of thirty-one, Kathy H. is coming to the end of her time as a carer – a milestone that prompts her to reflect on her unusual life. She begins, naturally, with her childhood at Hailsham, where she and her friends Ruth and Tommy negotiated the lessons and Exchanges set by their guardians, as well as the constant social pressures of school life. As her recollections progress, however, Kathy must take care not to delve too deeply into the tangled knot of her own emotions. The past holds no refuge for her; even since childhood, the knowledge of what the future holds has always been there, deep down – and some truths are too terrible to be confronted.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307740994, Paperback)

All children should believe they are special. But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny. Kazuo Ishiguro's sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, is a masterpiece of indirection. Like the students of Hailsham, readers are "told but not told" what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own.

Offsetting the bizarreness of these revelations is the placid, measured voice of the narrator, Kathy H., a 31-year-old Hailsham alumna who, at the close of the 1990s, is consciously ending one phase of her life and beginning another. She is in a reflective mood, and recounts not only her childhood memories, but her quest in adulthood to find out more about Hailsham and the idealistic women who ran it. Although often poignant, Kathy's matter-of-fact narration blunts the sharper emotional effects you might expect in a novel that deals with illness, self-sacrifice, and the severe restriction of personal freedoms. As in Ishiguro's best-known work, The Remains of the Day, only after closing the book do you absorb the magnitude of what his characters endure. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:45 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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