Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

9/10 A thought-provoking, beautifully written book and a must-read for fans of the dystopian genre

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, was first published in 2005 (Faber and Faber, 288 pages). Written using a first-person narrative, viewed through the eyes and thoughts of Kathy, it is Ishiguro’s sixth novel, and was shortlisted for the 2005 Man Booker Prize (won by The Sea by John Banville).

It is the story of Kathy and her friends Ruth and Tommy. The three were pupils together at Hailsham - an idyllic establishment situated deep in the English countryside. Here they were sheltered from the outside world and brought up to believe they were special, and that their personal welfare was crucial. But for what reason were they really there? The story’s narrator Kath is now thirty-one and we relive her memories with as she comes to terms with – and accepts – the truth that lies behind their seemingly pleasant childhoods.

"My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That’ll make it almost exactly twelve years."

When you begin reading Never Let Me Go it’s best if you have absolutely no idea of what to expect. Ishiguro is extremely highly regarded, a master of his craft, so you know you are in safe hands. When the story begins, at first it appears twee, a private school full of privileged children living together on campus experiencing normal, everyday, boarding schools events. But there is a sense of paranoia pervading the narrative, a feeling that while the school’s rules may appear harmless they also carry a distinct sense of dread.

The narrative, as told by Kathy, is really a memoir as she reminisces on her school days and the days that followed. Her story will likely raise these questions in the reader’s mind: What are the donations they will need to give in the future? What are possibles? Who exactly are these children and what purpose are they being bred for? These are the hooks.

Ishiguro’s characters are brought vividly  to life, and while not particularly likeable, the reader is hooked, wanting to know what darkness and tragedy is waiting around the corner. Think of Haruki Murakami or David Mitchell and you will get a sense about how reading this book feels.

Never Let Me Go is a slow burner of a book; initially readers may wonder if the book is what they expected, with it being labeled as a dystopia. But as the narrative progresses, as the characters come to life and their world is unveiled, the true dystopian nature of the book is revealed. This is a thought-provoking, beautifully written book and a must-read for fans of the dystopian genre.

"Superbly unsettling, impeccably controlled. The book's irresistible power comes from Ishiguro's matchless ability to expose its dark heart in careful increments" Entertainment Weekly

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