Saturday, 17 July 2010

Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is what happened when I went to buy this book in London’s Waterstones;

Shop assistant: “Oh my sister loves this writer; she’s read everything he’s written”

Me: “That’s good to hear” (feeling smug that I’m obviously on to a good’un)

Shop assistant “yeah, I can’t understand it myself. Personally I hate his writing”

Me “Oh”

OK so I picked myself up a writer that could go either way. I'm OK with that, sometimes I like seeing which side of the fence I sit on. I wasn’t going to read this novel so soon after buying it but when Christy from 'A good stopping point' left a comment letting me know the movie adaptation will soon be out I moved this book swiftly up my TBR list.

This is one of those annoying reviews where I am unable to give away any of the plot because it would spoil it completely. I can tell you that the main character Kathy reminisces back on her childhood at a very special boarding school in England and her relationships with two fellow students Ruth and Tommy.

The below film trailer gives a good hint of the plot and the general feel of the story if you feel you need more to go on.

The theme of this book is the inevitability of death; we all know that when we reach around 75 years we are coming to the end of our natural lives and we have perhaps years or perhaps months to live. It doesn’t matter how much in love we are with someone or how much we have left to achieve, when our natural life span is up, it's up. The characters in this book have a much shorter life span of around 30 years and as they come closer to that age they do what I suppose a lot of elderly people must do, they look back and reminisce, they prepare themselves and ask ‘what did our brief lives mean?'

I personally loved the narration of this book and found it pitch perfect for the subject and I was very quickly sucked in. The first three quarters of the book is Kathy reminiscing and is told in flashbacks and I was very impressed with the childhood scenes. I thought they perfectly captured some of the funny things and crazes children go through and it even reminded me of a few things from my days at school.

I have read criticism because some readers wanted the characters to try and rebel against their fate and I have to admit while reading it I wanted them to try and challenge it but of course I knew they never could. Aside from that not being the point the biggest dreamer in the group is Ruth who has a dream of one day working in a smart office; this is a dream which she tells the others about in great detail. Although this is a nice dream for her, this is hardly the dream of someone who has it in them to ‘rebel’ it’s simply not in them.

This book is about emotion, life, environmental upbringing, inevitability and ethics and it is lingering. This is a story I think will stay with me for a long time and I can’t wait until the film opens.

Would I recommend it? Yes as its certainly thought provoking and well written. Its a book with a slow pace considering its subject but this tone fits the book and characters perfectly.

Verdict 5/5

Posted by Jess


  1. OH MY GOSH I don't think you could possibly have made this more intriguing for me. Gotta read it!!

  2. Ooh! I've seen this book on shelves but had no idea what it was about! Thanks for the review!

  3. As we have been discussing genres recently I was interested to see that you did not slot this into one. It was only after I started reading it that I discovered this has been labelled science-fiction. Not a genre I would normally enjoy but I certainly did this one. If you are interested and have the time here is the link to my review

  4. Kathy - if you havent read anything by this author before then I would recommend it, but dont expect any easy answers.

    Bethany - I hope I havent given away too much of the plot, I think it was a big seller when it came out a few years ago.

    Lindy - I have just read your review and commented on it, Im glad you also loved it. I did know it was classified as science fiction but didnt put this in the review as there isnt really not much 'science' in it. Not many things are explained for example where these children were before the joined the school. I think a science fiction fan might be disappointed in it for that reason?

  5. Great review - I like the tack you chose in talking about the plot, accurate without giving too much away. I wasn't sure what I thought when I first finished this book, but it has a haunting quality about it that makes it stick with you. I'm looking forward to the movie. I think they cast Kathy and Ruth well.

    Ishiguro's Remains of the Day also has a character that you want to shake for not seizing life and bucking expectations. Like Kathy, they let happiness get away from them. You as the reader can see it, but they don't see it until it's too late. Both books are rather saturated with regret and yet I really liked both of them, especially Never Let Me Go.

  6. I still haven't read anything by Kazuo Ishiguro but I've heard so many good things about his work, I know I'm going to have to read one of his books as soon as possible! I think I'll start with this one since you've recommended it.

  7. I'd never heard of Ishiguro or this book before, but you've definitely interested me! I feel like I have to find out what it's -really- about now. :)

  8. Absolutely Jessica, it is not the sort of thing I expected from a sci fi genre.

  9. Well that assistant wouldn't win any prizes for sales person of the week - I thought the idea was to sell books and not put people off buying them. Obviously her sister was right about this particular book, thanks for the recommendation.

  10. Ooh, I love Ishiguro too! I find his writing so perfect and the themes he chooses so poignant. My favourite is probably "Remains of the Day".

  11. Christy - I think Kira Knightly was cast well, shes pretty much as I imagined her, same with the girl playing Kathy.

    Helen - This was the first book by Ishiguro I have read but the others that seem to be recommended alot are Remains of the Day and the Pale view of the Hills.

    Zara - hes a writer that seems to have a distint style, hense why some people really cant get on with him.

    Petty - er no, I wonder what she would have done if Id said, oh well Ive changed my mind now I wont take it LOL

    Rebecca - I have brought his new one called 'Noctures'but must get around to remains of the day, I remember watching the films many years ago.

  12. You absolutely will love Remains of the Day if you liked this!
    Also the film adaptation of RotD is ace....whereas I fear the film adaptation of this is going to be disappointing because I have an over-the-top-and-unnecessary dislike of Keira Knightley!

  13. I stumbled upon this one last year & had no idea about the author or the book. Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was! I loved this one, too!

  14. teadevotee - I wondered how long it would be before someone left a comment about Keira Knightly, she seems to really rouse hated emotions in alot of people LOL

    Elisabeth - that must have been a lovely surprise, its always best to pick up a book with no pre-concepions at all.

  15. This sounds fantastic!
    It's definitely going on my list. I simply ADORED The Remains of the Day, so I know I like his prose.

  16. Oh dear, what fail on the part of that bookseller. I adore Kazuo Ishiguro and this is the first book of his that I read. I loved it as well. No questions about where I sit in relation to that fence :)

  17. Birdie - if you already know you like the prose then Im sure you will love this one too.

    Clover - haha I know it makes me laugh when I think of it now. I must read more of his now

  18. Having read Remains of the day, a few years ago which I enjoyed guess this is going on my TBR.

  19. great review! I was also sort of up in the air about whether or not the characters should challenge their fate. I desperately wanted them to, in one sense, but then it just seemed to fit so right with the feel of the book for them not to. That they didn't is a large part of what made this book so great, actually.
    Glad you loved it as much as I did!

  20. Parrish Lantern - I must must read remains of the day now!

    Brizmus - Im sure I wanted them to challege their fate because thats what I would do but if they did it would be a whole different book. I was heartbreaking

  21. I'm currently listening to the audio production of this, which is narrated by Emilia Fox, and I absolutely love it thus far. It's the second audio production I've selected that has convinced me I need to continue trying audio as another form of "reading." Looking forward to reading Remains of the Day and seeing the move for Never Let Me go.