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Editorial Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Listening to Never Let Me Go was like entering a literary dream-state where, bit by bit, reality shifts and the truth is revealed. Rosalyn Landor is less a narrator and more a storyteller who brought me along as the characters uncovered the essential mysteries of their lives. —Steve Feldberg

Publisher's Summary

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, comes an unforgettable edge-of-your-seat mystery that is at once heartbreakingly tender and morally courageous about what it means to be human.

Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it's only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Never Let Me Go breaks through the boundaries of the literary novel. It is a gripping mystery, a beautiful love story, and also a scathing critique of human arrogance and a moral examination of how we treat the vulnerable and different in our society. In exploring the themes of memory and the impact of the past, Ishiguro takes on the idea of a possible future to create his most moving and powerful book to date.

©2005 Kazuo Ishiguro; (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee, 2005, Fiction
  • Alex Award Winner, 2006

"Stunningly brilliant fiction....A masterpiece of craftsmanship that offers an unparalleled emotional experience." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Ishiguro's elegant prose and masterly ways with characterization make for a lovely tale of memory, self-understanding, and love." (Library Journal)
"So exquisitely observed that even the most workaday objects and interactions are infused with a luminous, humming otherworldliness.....Ishiguro spins a stinging cautionary tale of science outpacing ethics." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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  • Overall
  • Sylvia
  • Castro Valley, CA, USA
  • 08-24-05

Ishiguro's McGuffin

This writer is truly a genius. He weaves a spell that keeps you bound to the story through much seemingly tedious detail. Whatever else this book is about, it is about the steady erosion of hope, about repressing what you know and, like many of his books (especially "Remains of the Day"), about how many of us can't reach out and grasp the happiness right in front of us. This book will be in my pantheon of classics -- and I never would have read it if our book club hadn't picked it out!

33 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jane
  • Oregon City, OR, USA
  • 06-12-05

Nothing short of brilliant

I listen to audiobooks everyday. I've really enjoyed many but never have I been so enthralled as with this book. The plot & pace were mesmerizing as was the narrator. If you like an eery mystery with a lot of detail this is for you. If you want something very fast paced that doesn't make you think then don't bother.

63 of 68 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kc
  • 05-23-05

Be patient; it will pay off

The detail is tedious. Everyone is so terribly sensitive, and trivial interactions take pages. But every few pages there is a "ping," of something not right, or a growing realization that there are large things missing in this detritus of kids at a boarding school fussing about their feelings. Then you slowly realize what is missing, and some of the trivial events reappear with deeper meaning. Two-thirds of the way through you realize the importance of the author's emphasis upon tedious little spats and hurts and crushes, and then the reader (who is fine) annoys you because she can't read fast enough as the horror mounts and the jigsaw gets completed. It is not science fiction at all, as some say; it is all at hand and little prevents society from seeking this path to health.

61 of 66 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dawn
  • Flagstaff, AZ, USA
  • 03-10-08

ephemeral nightmare

Ishiguro's trek in to the foundations of society is a foray into all of the insecurities that we humans have. Kathy (Kath) is intelligent, insightful, and seemingly stable; we are privy to her successes in a world that is not necessarily kind, nor fair, to the students of Hailsham. This is not a school story -- far from it. It is a story about the plight of the human race. It is richly detailed, haunting, and thoughtful. A must-read for those who don't mind thinking while reading.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Moving, haunting, but slow developing

I loved Ishiguro's biggest novel, Remains of the Day, considering it one of my all time favorites. Since then I haven't found Ishiguro has been able to recapture the nuances of Brittish emotion that he did so masterfully in Remains.

This novel comes very close, though.

I wasn't sold at first, thinking it was uncomfortably close to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. But it comes around, and the farther you get the more fascinating it becomes once you learn "the big twist", always with an unflinching first person look at an unknowable life ripped from a Aldus Huxley-style sci fi plotline.

One BIG strength: it is beautifully read.

49 of 54 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Haunting...it will never let me go

This book is not for everyone. It's a slow burn filled with pages of detailed descriptions of trivial things that at first make no sense. However, there is a big pay-off for the reader that sticks with the story. Eventually you begin to piece together what is happening and the reason behind all the detailed and trivial descriptions. This book was such a haunting tale of advanced science and the ethics behind it. This book will stick with me for years to come and most likely I will never be able to let it go.


41 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 09-07-10

A little too glancing

Kathy is a pupil at a special boarding school called Hailsham, which trains its students to be "donors" and "carers". Though Kathy describes her work and education in casually vague terms, it quickly becomes clear that there's a more troubling purpose to it. However, Ishiguro shies away from explaining or examining the real issue directly (at least until the end), instead conveying the story's emotional tone through Kathy's reflections on small details of her life and her relationship with two close friends from Hailsham, especially as their roles approach a final decision point.

There's certainly some resonance to Ishiguro's understated approach to his story, but I found it a little too glancing. Once it was clear to me why Hailsham existed, which happened about a third of the way into the book, I wanted more directness. How could this have happened in post-World War II Britain? And why would the characters, who seem to be intellectually and emotionally normal people, and aren't too restricted in their adult lives, accept their lots so passively, rather than, say, running off to Mexico? To me, there were a few too many logical questions that Ishiguro didn't adequately address, and the main characters' relationships, though they are drawn with a poignant mix of adult and juvenile behavior, didn't have enough going on to carry the heavy moral questions that the book poses. I had trouble taking the premise seriously without knowing more about the political realities of the novel's world. All in all, though the writing is good and there is some power in a scene towards the end, I found this one to be a bit of a disappointment as a whole.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dr.
  • Lake Oswego, OR, United States
  • 06-02-11

Creeped me out

So well written and narrated. Interesting, too - in the beginning before you learn who these people are and what fate is about to befall them. Although I won't spoil the essence of the story - it creeped me out. Although I love to be swept up in a fantasy story - this was not a fantasy that I wanted to be a part of.

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Powerfully compelling book!

As other reviewers have said, impeccable narration of an amazing book. The less you read about the plot points of the story, the more you will enjoy the unfolding of the narrative. Don't order this expecting a mystery or thriller, though; the point is the way the story moves fluidly from memory to memory, back and forth in time as it unfolds. The situation of the "students" in this story is unique, and yet has much to say about our humanity in general. I look forward to reading the rest of his books!

24 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

interesting, but not really much of a mystery

I really liked the premise of this book but didn't feel like it went anywhere. Although it's billed as a "mystery" that "mystery" becomes pretty obvious after the first few chapters. What I found most bothersome is that once the "mystery" is revealed, there is no revolt or outrage, only a quiet resolve and annoying complacency on the part of the main characters. I found that really hard to stomach, especially for a novel that centers around such young protagonists. In most science fiction stories of this nature there is an event that throws the whole system off-kilter, then causing the main characters to question everything and rebuild society. This doesn't happen here and I just keep thinking: why does no one care? It's an intersting read, but not a great one. Other novels do a better job with character development in the face of conflict, and the issues facing future societies.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful