Never Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go

byKazuo Ishiguro

Paperback | January 31, 2006

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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.
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and now lives in London, England. Each of his understated, finely wrought novels has been published to international acclaim. He was in both of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists anthologies, and won the Booker Prize at thirty-four for Remains of the Day.
Title:Never Let Me GoFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 7.99 × 5.15 × 0.64 inPublished:January 31, 2006Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676977111

ISBN - 13:9780676977110

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Never Let Me Go A haunting novel of love and loss. Slowly building, the story leaves you thinking about humanity and what it is to be human.
Date published: 2015-10-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Haunting tale I was not familiar with the author before reading this book. It took me some time to settle in to the story but when I did I was unsure of where this telling was leading. It is a very powerful story and I found my emotional response to the characters quite strong. The author leads you through strong arguments dealing with life and living. I was quite touched by the characters and sad to come to the end of the story.
Date published: 2015-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Absolutely amazing. It touches a subject that may have been our possible future, and might still be. It's such a beautiful book about humanity, love, memories, LIVING... More than well worth the read. Some parts do drag, even if they are necessary.
Date published: 2015-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never Let Me Go Excellent book. I WAS enthralled to the end Makes one think. What are the ramifications of human manipulation?
Date published: 2015-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Delightfully unsettling I love books that become more unsettling the more you read - Never Let Me Go is one of them. Cathy's world becomes more and more horrifying as you learn about it, with great suspense and pacing. A delightfully creepy dystopian take on modern medicine.
Date published: 2014-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read it. You’ll be glad you did. Amazing tone. I felt like someone was talking to me, telling me the story rather than me reading it.
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Poignant Wow. Disturbing, heartbreaking , thought provoking.
Date published: 2014-09-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pretty ok It's written like someone is telling you the story over a pint, but they keep digressing when you really just want them to get to the point. Still interesting though.
Date published: 2014-08-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty ok Very good read nice flow and story line.the book has you wondering what happens next and wrapped up in the main characters life.
Date published: 2014-02-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy go to a special school that's on for kids like them. They live there and learn there and, in many ways, they are like normal teenagers. But some things don't seem to make much sense to those three and as they slowly start to peel away the layers, they learn more about what their future is going to be like. As they learn about their future, they also need to go through regular teenage problems, like betrayal, gossip, and sex. Years later, Kathy meets up with Ruth and Tommy to re-live some of their good times together and some of their more passionate arguments. They still have a lot of questions about what happened while they were at school and what's still to happen to them in the future. This book is a very subtle science fiction. The way Ishiguro presented the more science fiction elements of this book were slipped in to the book like they were no big deal and as if they are secondary elements to the story. Not only were these elements the odder parts of the story but they were also the twists in the story and I don't recall ever having read a book where the author is so nonchalant about the twists of his story. One thing I never understood about the book is why the characters just accept their fate. Why don't some of them run away? Some of them would dream of running off to the USA and becoming actors. Why didn't they try? Also, why did Kathy put up with Ruth all that time? I would have given up with her and found other friends.
Date published: 2012-05-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Loved the Idea I loved the idea of this book, and I loved the characters. I even loved the story...however...It seemed to me like I was reading an outline of a story. There was just never "enough" of anything. I could have read 200 more pages, if only more information had been included throughout. I was disappointed.
Date published: 2011-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As close to perfect as I have ever read! Ok, so there has been a lot of praise for this novel over the last decade or so, and I always figured I'd get around to it, but to be truthful I was expecting this to be one of those novels that was so pretentiously written you'd need a Masters in English to decipher it. This was what I expected. However, what I actually got was a complex, haunting, heartbreaking, beautifully written story about sacrifice, love, friendship, and morality that touched me deeply. Ishiguro walked the razor's edge throughout this entire novel, and proved himself worthy of the label "Best Novel of the Decade". It is a rare thing to have a literary experience like Never Let Me Go...don't deny yourself any longer!
Date published: 2011-03-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Quietly Shocking I was drawn to the title of this book. I think being a romantic at heart, the title just captures you. But there is so much more to this novel that the covers only elude to. This book touches on humanity in a way that no one wants to face and yet is on the verge of becoming reality. This book draws you in quietly, bringing you into the characters and eventually revealing tthe darkness that all of the characters are forced to face. It's breathtaking, tragic and deeply compelling. It leaves you exposed and brings you to face questions and realities in yourself that you otherwise would have overlooked.
Date published: 2011-03-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Big Disappointment I loved Kazuo Ishaguro's "The Remains of the Day" and had high hopes for this book. I am at a loss as to the positive reviews... I didn't like the writing style, plot, or characters. One of the worst books I have ever read.
Date published: 2010-12-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from good read good read
Date published: 2010-11-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Unique Story It was a good read that wasn't quite a page turner for me but was well written and had an engaging plot. I found that the author did a great job building relationships between characters, rather than individually, through describing social interactions in detail. His first person style of writing was slow to take hold, but once it did, it felt like a more intimate storytelling. What stands out to me, however, is the unorthodox plot and setting of the novel. While the story has a conclusion, it leaves readers asking questions about the world that they read about, and whether such a world is possible in our real lives. I read this book as part of a book club. WIthout giving anything away, this book deals with a theme all humans can comtemplate on some level or have an opinion about, particularly for me. Thus, it generated very good discussion during the book club meeting.
Date published: 2010-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You won't forget Kathy This is easily one of the best books I have read this year. It is haunting and beautiful and quite frankly it is also frightening. I have suggested this novel to countless friends. Ishiguro has created a truly memorable narrator in Kathy H.
Date published: 2010-11-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Horrible A real page turner - couldnt turn the pages quickly enough! A booker prize book? Both the plot and characters were empty. Could not finish it. Would not recommend!
Date published: 2010-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very moving Incredible book, changed me after reading it. Really recommend it!
Date published: 2010-09-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Didn't Grab Me There's no denying that this book has great potential. The storyline is solid, but the writing style never drew me in. I wanted to like it. Maybe it was something about Kathy's narration. She would go on for ages about little things that I thought might come back later to become important points, but they never did. The characters themselves lacked that special something that really makes you feel for them. I'm not one to leave a book unfinished, but this one was a struggle. I kept holding out that maybe it would start to get exciting if I just kept reading, but nothing about this book drew me in or gave anything to be looked forward to. It has great potential, so maybe the movie will be better.
Date published: 2010-09-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not what I had expected This book was hyped up for nothing, although I do give credit to the author for his imagination and ability to describe settings with wonderful detail; I thought this book could offer more due to its topic. Def. recommend My Sister's Keeper in terms of a book dealing with using another person's body parts to save another. I was quiet disappointed in this book; as I read I found nothing to look forward too.
Date published: 2010-08-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Suspenseful and eerily suggestive Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro has been on my "to be read" shelf for a while, and when the book finally came into my local Chapters outlet, I immediately picked it up. However, this novel is not exactly what I expected. Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is in many ways an odd novel: on one hand, it presents a dystopian world, where clones ("students") are created and harvested by humans for their vital organs; conversely, Ishiguro focuses mainly on the innocence of three of these students as they grow up in a private school and the love -- and conflict -- that arises between them. Never Let Me Go was certainly a page turner, and I would bill it as "gothic science-fiction": a strange -- yet not too unbelievable -- world is presented through the eyes of Kathy -- a student -- as she tries to comprehend what exactly is going on outside of her sheltered perception. In this unknowing way, Never Let Me Go presents more questions than straight answers until the last 30 pages, and I was left feeling that the story wasn't heading anywhere until that point. Overall, the last 30 pages do make the previous 230 worth it and are great areas for discussion and personal contemplation about the loss of innocence and -- most importantly my opinion -- the sheltering of knowledge and its potentially dreadful excesses. While it's not as frightening as Huxley's Brave New World or Orwell's 1984, as despondent as McCarthy's The Road, or as strictly allegorical as Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Ishiguro does well to create a truly thought-provoking work.
Date published: 2010-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never let this go I have read the synopsis on the back cover countless of times, but it did not seem to be the kind of book I would have been interested in. How wrong I was. I had to read it for a book club and I instantly fell in love with it. Not to spoil the plot too much for those interested, it has a dystopian setting yet it is handled in such an ordinary manner that it is as though reality has presented itself and you are expected to know what it is. Hints are dropped here and there as to what this mystery could be, while an air of secrecy still constantly shrouds the reader's mind till it is directly dealt with. The sociology, mentality, dilemmas, in the context they were set in, lead one to ponder since they are very applicable to our current society itself. Despite the unexpected setting, what the story truly is about at the front and center is the friendship of three friends through time and the revelation of what their lives are about. Memories are recounted, sometimes in a slow and articulated way, sometimes rushed and repeated - isn't that how our minds work when we want to savour a memory or when thoughts of the past come gushing back to us? These anecdotes and the language they were written in really moved me. The final paragraph of the book was so delicately penned that the impact of the words reverberate on beyond the conclusion of the novel. It has been on my mind and will continue to be; I suppose this is what it means by "Never Let Me Go".
Date published: 2010-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A rare gem. There are few books like this in the world. Few stories that can make you ashamed of a world that doesn't even exist. Few characters that you love and pity and ache for this much. The author unravels the truths behind the lives of Kathy and Tommy and Ruth gradually, drawing you in, making you care for them even while you see them at both their best and their worst. You watch them hurt each other -- sometimes intentionally -- and you watch them love each other. And then, when their truths are fully revealed, you wonder why they don't rail against the injustices done against them. A calmly-paced yet gripping novel that is a love story, a mystery, a shocking portrayal of worldly greed and complacency and apathy, an indepth examination of what it means to be human, and a bold reflection of society's fears and prejudices.
Date published: 2009-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from captivating! A wonderful book - I was absorbed in it immediately! The themes and characters intertwined to create a frighteningly real story that I had to finish as quickly as possible. The moral dilemmas presented throughout the text were very relevant to our current social context, and gave much to reflect upon after reading. The book, however, was rather depressing, and the ending was certainly not uplifting, but this did not diminish how powerful a read it was as a whole!
Date published: 2008-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderfully Seductive This novel was superb, it created an entire world for me to become submersed in. Everytime I set it down I was plague with questions that could only be answered by reading. The author slowly gives out answers like chocolate mints on my pillow. I would recommend it to all my friends.
Date published: 2008-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Haunting WARNING: THIS BOOK IS VERY DEPRESSING, AND IT WILL HAUNT YOU FOR DAYS AFTER READING IT Never Let Me Go is a brilliant book. It is perfect in every aspect. Ishiguro's prose slowly builds up to the explanation parts of teh book, and through the whole constantly carries a feeling a dread. I don't know how hed oes, but that's just how it is. Second: DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT READ ANY OF THE OFFICIAL REVIEWS, AS THEY ARE SPOILERIFIC. DO NOT READ ANY OF THE PLOT DESCRIPTIONS, AS THOSE ALSO SPOIL THINGS. I CAME IN WITHOUT ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THE PLOT, AND WAS SHOCKED BY THE TWISTS. IF YOU WANT TO ENJOY THIS BOOK COMPLETELY, DON'T READ ANYTHING ABOUT THE PLOT. Anywho, brilliant book overall. It was very affecting and moved me.
Date published: 2007-12-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst Book Ever This book is bad. I cannot figure out why there are such rave reviews about it. The characters are annoying, the plot makes no sense in the end. It's a slow read and you will feel as if you wasted your time reading it.
Date published: 2007-11-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Just didn't connect... Margaret Atwood says Never Let Me Go is "a brilliantly executed book by a master craftsman who has chosen a difficult subject: ourselves, seen through a glass, darkly." The Independent (UK) called it "an exquisitely nuanced, and extremely moving process of revelation. Never Let Me Go is a novel about love and goodness and the hopes and fears of the human heart." Time Magazine named it one of the greatest 100 novels since 1923. Ishiguro's novel tells the story of Kath, Ruth and Tommy three students at an exclusive English boarding school called Hailsham. There is something odd about Hailsham and the reader comes to understand its secrets at just about the same time as the story's main characters. It's actually quite difficult to say any more without giving away plot points which are essential to the novel. Despite the fact that there is a sense of urgency to understand just what is going on at the school, Never Let Me Go is not a mystery story. Ishiguro does a great job of stringing the reader along, sure, but the true genius of this novel is what he says about hope where there can be none and love where there shouldn't be. And despite the fact that it does tackle larger issues- of morality and the consequences of science- the novel is also about these three friends, their triangular love affair and their hopes and dreams for the future. It's a remarkable novel. But I didn't like it very much. I found it somehow disorganized- the narrative was choppy. The novel's climax was mainly expository. The novel's themes are reiterated by a secondary character. I wanted to care for Kath and Tommy and Ruth- and I did- but I wanted to care more, I guess. Still- the final scene of the novel is haunting and if the novel were to be held up as an example of the extremes (both the cruelty and kindness) of mankind- I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to find a book that does it better than this one. So, I didn't particularly enjoy the book, but I wouldn't hesitate in saying that it is worth reading.
Date published: 2007-11-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from An interesting, but unoriginal, story The premise upon which this book is written is interesting, but not particularly original, especially for readers of sci-fi/fantasy. Mr Ishiguro's attempt to fit this story in a current day setting is rather clumsy and in fact draws attention to the boundary between reality and fiction. The prose is elegant as always, the characters themselves are believable although not endearing. There are some lovely moments scattered throughout. Unfortunately, my overall feeling for this book is negative: the pacing is off, the placement of the characters in today's society was not well thought out, and the ending lacked any sort of satisfaction. For those curious about Mr Ishiguro's writing, read "The Remains of the Day" instead and leave this book on the shelf.
Date published: 2007-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Read the book, not about it Listen: You need to watch out for spoilers. I knew a key bit of the plot before reading the book and I think I would've enjoyed it more had I gone in blind.
Date published: 2007-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous I loved this book. I didn't want it to end,it was such an enjoyable read.
Date published: 2006-12-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not So Good I didn't overlly enjoy this book. I was hoping there would be a big twist, but there wasn't. It is exactly what you think it is. There is absolutely ZERO climax to this story. If I were you, i would skip this book and go to blockbuster and rent the island instead. it'll take up less of your time and it's the same idea but better.
Date published: 2006-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never Wanted to Let it Go After having read Ishiguro's similar "Remains of the Day" and "An Artist of the Floating World", I keep being taken aback by the author's awesome talents for spinning an intricate story around powerful human emotion and deep questions of personal identity. While perhaps not a book for the beach, any literature lover will truly love diving into this book's theme to uncover how its metaphors and message truly relate to their lives ... and perhaps those of a land in the not too distant future.
Date published: 2006-07-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting and Enjoyable I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I was pleasantly surpised. It's sort of "Handmaids Tale" meets "1984" however there seems to be more emotion weaved into it. The concept is scary and I like that the author doesn't come right out with it in the beginning. This leaves you searching, thinking you know what's happening but not quite certain. I think this was a worthwhile read!
Date published: 2006-07-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not what I hoped for This was my pick for our bookclub to read, however I would not choose it again. I found it did not "flow". Much of it is written in a "train of thought" style- as if the person was standing before you relating a story and that made it disjointed. The "more about that later" kind of comments were annoying to me. The premise of the book was promising but it did not deliver for me.
Date published: 2006-06-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Thought Provoking I agree with many other reviews in that this book was difficult to get into. I found the narration in the first person to be difficult to follow and at times very choppy. I also agree that the book doesn't move very quickly. I admittedly had a hard time getting through it. However, as I sit back and reflect on the book, it makes me feel quite upset. The thesis of the book is fairly clear, and the presentation of the "utopian" society doesn't sit comfortably with me. I can only assume that these are the emotions the author is trying to evoke, and that getting me to question science and the direction we are headed is the idea behind his writing the novel. All in all, this story is haunting in that it stays with you long after you've finished reading.
Date published: 2006-06-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Poignant and Authentic I beg to differ from previous reviewers in their assessment of "Never Let Me Go." Admittedly, the novel is by no means action-packed, but it does provoke thought. If language and dialogue are simple and have aspects of immaturity to them, it is because they belong to the sort of characters who best serve to illustrate the author's point: ordinary and unremarkable people. The understated beauty of Ishiguro's novels usually involve dramatic irony: first-person narrators reveal truths about themselves to the reader, truths of which they themselves are unaware. NLMG is no exception in this respect. There is something very poignant and authentic about Kathy and her memories and feelings regarding Hailsham, her former boarding school. The book is not (and I believe never claimed to be) "science fiction"; the science and technology implied in the plot are already for the most part known and mastered. Rather, it is the social situation of his characters that Ishiguro has invented. Ultimately, however, the lives of his "special" characters merely mirror and amplify our own, in that we cannot, any more than Kathy or Tommy or Ruth, control our own destinies and we do not always have all the time we need. By creating a fictional scenario, Ishiguro heightens our understanding of what is treasured -- and heatbreaking -- about our own childhoods and lives.
Date published: 2006-06-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Don't waste your time This book was a colassal disappointment. It was tough to get into, tough to get through, and felt like a time-waster at the end. The sci-fi mystery is too easily discerned to keep the reader interested, and while the message is important, neither the context nor the characters are interesting enough to make you care.
Date published: 2006-05-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from An Important message, in an adequate book Since this book was so highly touted, I had many great expectations. Yet, halfway through the book, I found myself wanting, and reminded of Wyndham’s classic work with little if any of his creativity. I would not consider this classic science fiction in any sense of the word. While the message is important, the book itself is a good read, nothing more.
Date published: 2006-01-02

Read from the Book

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. Now I know my being a carer so long isn’t necessarily because they think I’m fantastic at what I do. There are some really good carers who’ve been told to stop after just two or three years. And I can think of one carer at least who went on for all of fourteen years despite being a complete waste of space. So I’m not trying to boast. But then I do know for a fact they’ve been pleased with my work, and by and large, I have too. My donors have always tended to do much better than expected. Their recovery times have been impressive, and hardly any of them have been classified as “agitated,” even before fourth donation. Okay, maybe I am boasting now. But it means a lot to me, being able to do my work well, especially that bit about my donors staying “calm.” I’ve developed a kind of instinct around donors. I know when to hang around and comfort them, when to leave them to themselves; when to listen to everything they have to say, and when just to shrug and tell them to snap out of it.Anyway, I’m not making any big claims for myself. I know carers, working now, who are just as good and don’t get half the credit. If you’re one of them, I can understand how you might get resentful—about my bedsit, my car, above all, the way I get to pick and choose who I look after. And I’m a Hailsham student—which is enough by itself sometimes to get people’s backs up. Kathy H., they say, she gets to pick and choose, and she always chooses her own kind: people from Hailsham, or one of the other privileged estates. No wonder she has a great record. I’ve heard it said enough, so I’m sure you’ve heard it plenty more, and maybe there’s something in it. But I’m not the first to be allowed to pick and choose, and I doubt if I’ll be the last. And anyway, I’ve done my share of looking after donors brought up in every kind of place. By the time I finish, remember, I’ll have done twelve years of this, and it’s only for the last six they’ve let me choose.And why shouldn’t they? Carers aren’t machines. You try and do your best for every donor, but in the end, it wears you down. You don’t have unlimited patience and energy. So when you get a chance to choose, of course, you choose your own kind. That’s natural. There’s no way I could have gone on for as long as I have if I’d stopped feeling for my donors every step of the way. And anyway, if I’d never started choosing, how would I ever have got close again to Ruth and Tommy after all those years?But these days, of course, there are fewer and fewer donors left who I remember, and so in practice, I haven’t been choosing that much. As I say, the work gets a lot harder when you don’t have that deeper link with the donor, and though I’ll miss being a carer, it feels just about right to be finishing at last come the end of the year.Ruth, incidentally, was only the third or fourth donor I got to choose. She already had a carer assigned to her at the time, and I remember it taking a bit of nerve on my part. But in the end I managed it, and the instant I saw her again, at that recovery centre in Dover, all our differences—while they didn’t exactly vanish—seemed not nearly as important as all the other things: like the fact that we’d grown up together at Hailsham, the fact that we knew and remembered things no one else did. It’s ever since then, I suppose, I started seeking out for my donors people from the past, and whenever I could, people from Hailsham.There have been times over the years when I’ve tried to leave Hailsham behind, when I’ve told myself I shouldn’t look back so much. But then there came a point when I just stopped resisting. It had to do with this particular donor I had once, in my third year as a carer; it was his reaction when I mentioned I was from Hailsham. He’d just come through his third donation, it hadn’t gone well, and he must have known he wasn’t going to make it. He could hardly breathe, but he looked towards me and said: “Hailsham. I bet that was a beautiful place.” Then the next morning, when I was making conversation to keep his mind off it all, and I asked where he’d grown up, he mentioned some place in Dorset and his face beneath the blotches went into a completely new kind of grimace. And I realised then how desperately he didn’t want reminded. Instead, he wanted to hear about Hailsham.So over the next five or six days, I told him whatever he wanted to know, and he’d lie there, all hooked up, a gentle smile breaking through. He’d ask me about the big things and the little things. About our guardians, about how we each had our own collection chests under our beds, the football, the rounders, the little path that took you all round the outside of the main house, round all its nooks and crannies, the duck pond, the food, the view from the Art Room over the fields on a foggy morning. Sometimes he’d make me say things over and over; things I’d told him only the day before, he’d ask about like I’d never told him. “Did you have a sports pavilion?” “Which guardian was your special favourite?” At first I thought this was just the drugs, but then I realised his mind was clear enough. What he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood. He knew he was close to completing and so that’s what he was doing: getting me to describe things to him, so they’d really sink in, so that maybe during those sleepless nights, with the drugs and the pain and the exhaustion, the line would blur between what were my memories and what were his. That was when I first understood, really understood, just how lucky we’d been—Tommy, Ruth, me, all the rest of us..Driving around the country now, I still see things that will remind me of Hailsham. I might pass the corner of a misty field, or see part of a large house in the distance as I come down the side of a valley, even a particular arrangement of poplar trees up on a hillside, and I’ll think: “Maybe that’s it! I’ve found it! This actually is Hailsham!” Then I see it’s impossible and I go on driving, my thoughts drifting on elsewhere. In particular, there are those pavilions. I spot them all over the country, standing on the far side of playing fields, little white prefab buildings with a row of windows unnaturally high up, tucked almost under the eaves. I think they built a whole lot like that in the fifties and sixties, which is probably when ours was put up. If I drive past one I keep looking over to it for as long as possible, and one day I’ll crash the car like that, but I keep doing it. Not long ago I was driving through an empty stretch of Worcestershire and saw one beside a cricket ground so like ours at Hailsham I actually turned the car and went back for a second look.We loved our sports pavilion, maybe because it reminded us of those sweet little cottages people always had in picture books when we were young. I can remember us back in the Juniors, pleading with guardians to hold the next lesson in the pavilion instead of the usual room. Then by the time we were in Senior 2—when we were twelve, going on thirteen—the pavilion had become the place to hide out with your best friends when you wanted to get away from the rest of Hailsham.The pavilion was big enough to take two separate groups without them bothering each other—in the summer, a third group could hang about out on the veranda. But ideally you and your friends wanted the place just to yourselves, so there was often jockeying and arguing. The guardians were always telling us to be civilised about it, but in practice, you needed to have some strong personalities in your group to stand a chance of getting the pavilion during a break or free period. I wasn’t exactly the wilting type myself, but I suppose it was really because of Ruth we got in there as often as we did.Usually we just spread ourselves around the chairs and benches—there’d be five of us, six if Jenny B. came along—and had a good gossip. There was a kind of conversation that could only happen when you were hidden away in the pavilion; we might discuss something that was worrying us, or we might end up screaming with laughter, or in a furious row. Mostly, it was a way to unwind for a while with your closest friends.On the particular afternoon I’m now thinking of, we were standing up on stools and benches, crowding around the high windows. That gave us a clear view of the North Playing Field where about a dozen boys from our year and Senior 3 had gathered to play football. There was bright sunshine, but it must have been raining earlier that day because I can remember how the sun was glinting on the muddy surface of the grass.Someone said we shouldn’t be so obvious about watching, but we hardly moved back at all. Then Ruth said: “He doesn’t suspect a thing. Look at him. He really doesn’t suspect a thing.”When she said this, I looked at her and searched for signs of disapproval about what the boys were going to do to Tommy. But the next second Ruth gave a little laugh and said: “The idiot!”And I realised that for Ruth and the others, whatever the boys chose to do was pretty remote from us; whether we approved or not didn’t come into it. We were gathered around the windows at that moment not because we relished the prospect of seeing Tommy get humiliated yet again, but just because we’d heard about this latest plot and were vaguely curious to watch it unfold. In those days, I don’t think what the boys did amongst themselves went much deeper than that. For Ruth, for the others, it was that detached, and the chances are that’s how it was for me too.Or maybe I’m remembering it wrong. Maybe even then, when I saw Tommy rushing about that field, undisguised delight on his face to be accepted back in the fold again, about to play the game at which he so excelled, maybe I did feel a little stab of pain. What I do remember is that I noticed Tommy was wearing the light blue polo shirt he’d got in the Sales the previous month—the one he was so proud of. I remember thinking: “He’s really stupid, playing football in that. It’ll get ruined, then how’s he going to feel?” Out loud, I said, to no one in particular: “Tommy’s got his shirt on. His favourite polo shirt.”I don’t think anyone heard me, because they were all laughing at Laura—the big clown in our group—mimicking one after the other the expressions that appeared on Tommy’s face as he ran, waved, called, tackled. The other boys were all moving around the field in that deliberately languorous way they have when they’re warming up, but Tommy, in his excitement, seemed already to be going full pelt. I said, louder this time: “He’s going to be so sick if he ruins that shirt.” This time Ruth heard me, but she must have thought I’d meant it as some kind of joke, because she laughed half-heartedly, then made some quip of her own.Then the boys had stopped kicking the ball about, and were standing in a pack in the mud, their chests gently rising and falling as they waited for the team picking to start. The two captains who emerged were from Senior 3, though everyone knew Tommy was a better player than any of that year. They tossed for first pick, then the one who’d won stared at the group.“Look at him,” someone behind me said. “He’s completely convinced he’s going to be first pick. Just look at him!”There was something comical about Tommy at that moment, something that made you think, well, yes, if he’s going to be that daft, he deserves what’s coming. The other boys were all pre- tending to ignore the picking process, pretending they didn’t care where they came in the order. Some were talking quietly to each other, some re-tying their laces, others just staring down at their feet as they trammelled the mud. But Tommy was looking eagerly at the Senior 3 boy, as though his name had already been called.Laura kept up her performance all through the team-picking, doing all the different expressions that went across Tommy’s face: the bright eager one at the start; the puzzled concern when four picks had gone by and he still hadn’t been chosen; the hurt and panic as it began to dawn on him what was really going on. I didn’t keep glancing round at Laura, though, because I was watching Tommy; I only knew what she was doing because the others kept laughing and egging her on. Then when Tommy was left standing alone, and the boys all began sniggering, I heard Ruth say:“It’s coming. Hold it. Seven seconds. Seven, six, five . . .”She never got there. Tommy burst into thunderous bellowing, and the boys, now laughing openly, started to run off towards the South Playing Field. Tommy took a few strides after them—it was hard to say whether his instinct was to give angry chase or if he was panicked at being left behind. In any case he soon stopped and stood there, glaring after them, his face scarlet. Then he began to scream and shout, a nonsensical jumble of swear words and insults.We’d all seen plenty of Tommy’s tantrums by then, so we came down off our stools and spread ourselves around the room. We tried to start up a conversation about something else, but there was Tommy going on and on in the background, and although at first we just rolled our eyes and tried to ignore it, in the end—probably a full ten minutes after we’d first moved away—we were back up at the windows again.The other boys were now completely out of view, and Tommy was no longer trying to direct his comments in any particular direction. He was just raving, flinging his limbs about, at the sky, at the wind, at the nearest fence post. Laura said he was maybe “rehearsing his Shakespeare.” Someone else pointed out how each time he screamed something he’d raise one foot off the ground, pointing it outwards, “like a dog doing a pee.” Actually, I’d noticed the same foot movement myself, but what had struck me was that each time he stamped the foot back down again, flecks of mud flew up around his shins. I thought again about his precious shirt, but he was too far away for me to see if he’d got much mud on it.“I suppose it is a bit cruel,” Ruth said, “the way they always work him up like that. But it’s his own fault. If he learnt to keep his cool, they’d leave him alone.”“They’d still keep on at him,” Hannah said. “Graham K.’s temper’s just as bad, but that only makes them all the more care- ful with him. The reason they go for Tommy’s because he’s a layabout.”Then everyone was talking at once, about how Tommy never even tried to be creative, about how he hadn’t even put anything in for the Spring Exchange. I suppose the truth was, by that stage, each of us was secretly wishing a guardian would come from the house and take him away. And although we hadn’t had any part in this latest plan to rile Tommy, we had taken out ringside seats, and we were starting to feel guilty. But there was no sign of a guardian, so we just kept swapping reasons why Tommy deserved everything he got. Then when Ruth looked at her watch and said even though we still had time, we should get back to the main house, nobody argued.Tommy was still going strong as we came out of the pavilion. The house was over to our left, and since Tommy was standing in the field straight ahead of us, there was no need to go anywhere near him. In any case, he was facing the other way and didn’t seem to register us at all. All the same, as my friends set off along the edge of the field, I started to drift over towards him. I knew this would puzzle the others, but I kept going—even when I heard Ruth’s urgent whisper to me to come back.I suppose Tommy wasn’t used to being disturbed during his rages, because his first response when I came up to him was to stare at me for a second, then carry on as before. It was like he was doing Shakespeare and I’d come up onto the stage in the middle of his performance. Even when I said: “Tommy, your nice shirt. You’ll get it all messed up,” there was no sign of him having heard me.So I reached forward and put a hand on his arm. Afterwards, the others thought he’d meant to do it, but I was pretty sure it was unintentional. His arms were still flailing about, and he wasn’t to know I was about to put out my hand. Anyway, as he threw up his arm, he knocked my hand aside and hit the side of my face. It didn’t hurt at all, but I let out a gasp, and so did most of the girls behind me.That’s when at last Tommy seemed to become aware of me, of the others, of himself, of the fact that he was there in that field, behaving the way he had been, and stared at me a bit stupidly.“Tommy,” I said, quite sternly. “There’s mud all over your shirt.”“So what?” he mumbled. But even as he said this, he looked down and noticed the brown specks, and only just stopped himself crying out in alarm. Then I saw the surprise register on his face that I should know about his feelings for the polo shirt.“It’s nothing to worry about,” I said, before the silence got humiliating for him. “It’ll come off. If you can’t get it off yourself, just take it to Miss Jody.”He went on examining his shirt, then said grumpily: “It’s nothing to do with you anyway.”He seemed to regret immediately this last remark and looked at me sheepishly, as though expecting me to say something comforting back to him. But I’d had enough of him by now, particularly with the girls watching—and for all I knew, any number of others from the windows of the main house. So I turned away with a shrug and rejoined my friends.Ruth put an arm around my shoulders as we walked away. “At least you got him to pipe down,” she said. “Are you okay? Mad animal.”From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. Kathy introduces herself as an experienced carer. She prides herself on knowing how to keep her donors calm, “even before fourth donation” [p. 3]. How long does it take for the meaning of such terms as “donation,” “carer,” and “completed” to be fully revealed?2. Kathy addresses us directly, with statements like “I don’t know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham we used to have some form of medical every week” [p. 13], and she thinks that we too might envy her having been at Hailsham [p. 4]. What does Kathy assume about anyone she might be addressing, and why?3. Why is it important for Kathy to seek out donors who are “from the past,” “people from Hailsham” [p. 5]? She learns from a donor who’d grown up at an awful place in Dorset that she and her friends at Hailsham had been really “lucky” [p. 6]. How does the irony of this designation grow as the novel goes on? What does Hailsham represent for Kathy, and why does she say at the end that Hailsham is “something no one can take away” [p. 287]?4. Kathy tells the reader, “How you were regarded at Hailsham, how much you were liked and respected, had to do with how good you were at ‘creating’” [p. 16]. What were Hailsham’s administrators trying to achieve in attaching a high value to creativity?5. Kathy’s narration is the key to the novel’s disquieting effect. First person narration establishes a kind of intimacy between narrator and reader. What is it like having direct access to Kathy’s mind and feelings? How would the novel be different if narrated from Tommy’s point of view, or Ruth’s, or Miss Emily’s?6. What are some of Ruth’s most striking character traits? How might her social behavior, at Hailsham and later at the Cottages, be explained? Why does she seek her “possible” so earnestly [pp. 159–67]?7. One of the most notable aspects of life at Hailsham is the power of the group. Students watch each other carefully and try on different poses, attitudes, and ways of speaking. Is this behavior typical of most adolescents, or is there something different about the way the students at Hailsham seek to conform?8. How do Madame and Miss Emily react to Kathy and Tommy when they come to request a deferral? Defending her work at Hailsham, Miss Emily says, “Look at you both now! You’ve had good lives, you’re educated and cultured” [p. 261]. What is revealed in this extended conversation, and how do these revelations affect your experience of the story?9. Why does Tommy draw animals? Why does he continue to work on them even after he learns that there will be no deferral?10. Kathy reminds Madame of the scene in which Madame watched her dancing to a song on her Judy Bridgewater tape. How is Kathy’s interpretation of this event different from Madame’s? How else might it be interpreted? Is the song’s title again recalled by the book’s final pages [pp. 286–88]?11. After their visit to Miss Emily and Madame, Kathy tells Tommy that his fits of rage might be explained by the fact that “at some level you always knew” [p. 275]. Does this imply that Kathy didn’t? Does it imply that Tommy is more perceptive than Kathy?12. Does the novel examine the possibility of human cloning as a legitimate question for medical ethics, or does it demonstrate that the human costs of cloning are morally repellent, and therefore impossible for science to pursue? What kind of moral and emotional responses does the novel provoke? If you extend the scope of the book’s critique, what are its implications for our own society?13. The novel takes place in “the late 1990s,” and a postwar science boom has resulted in human cloning and the surgical harvesting of organs to cure cancer and other diseases. In an interview with January Magazine Ishiguro said that he is not interested in realism.* In spite of the novel’s fictitious premise, however, how “realistically” does Never Let Me Go reflect the world we live in, where scientific advancement can be seemingly irresistible?14. The teacher Lucy Wainright wanted to make the children more aware of the future that awaited them. Miss Emily believed that in hiding the truth, “We were able to give you something, something which even now no one will ever take from you, and we were able to do that principally by sheltering you. . . . Sometimes that meant we kept things from you, lied to you. . . . But . . . we gave you your childhoods” [p. 268]. In the context of the story as a whole, is this a valid argument?15. Is it surprising that Miss Emily admits feeling revulsion for the children at Hailsham? Does this indicate that she believes Kathy and Tommy are not fully human? What is the nature of the moral quandary Miss Emily and Madame have gotten themselves into?16. Critic Frank Kermode has noted that “Ishiguro is fundamentally a tragic novelist; there is always a disaster, remote but urgent, imagined but real, at the heart of his stories” [London Review of Books, April 21, 2005]. How would you describe the tragedy at the heart of Never Let Me Go?17. Some reviewers have expressed surprise that Kathy, Tommy, and their friends never try to escape their ultimate fate. They cling to the possibility of deferral, but never attempt to vanish into the world of freedom that they view from a distance. Yet they love the film The Great Escape, “the moment the American jumps over the barbed wire on his bike” [p. 99]. Why might Ishiguro have chosen to present them as fully resigned to their early deaths?18. Reread the novel’s final paragraph, in which Kathy describes a flat, windswept field with a barbed wire fence “where all sorts of rubbish had caught and tangled.” She imagines Tommy appearing here in “the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up” [p. 287]. What does the final sentence indicate about Kathy’s state of mind as she faces her losses and her own death — stoicism, denial, courage, resolution?19. In a recent interview, Ishiguro talked about Never Let Me Go: “There are things I am more interested in than the clone thing. How are they trying to find their place in the world and make sense of their lives? To what extent can they transcend their fate? As time starts to run out, what are the things that really matter? Most of the things that concern them concern us all, but with them it is concertinaed into this relatively short period of time. These are things that really interest me and, having come to the realization that I probably have limited opportunities to explore these things, that’s what I want to concentrate on. I can see the appeal of travel books and journalism and all the rest of it and I hope there will be time to do them all one day. But I just don’t think that day is now.” How do these remarks relate to your own ideas about the book? [Interview with Nicholas Wroe, The Guardian, February 2, 2005.]

Editorial Reviews

A Globe and Mail Best Book (Top 100)A New York Times Notable Book (Top 100)One of Publishers Weekly’s Top Ten Best Books of 2005One of Seattle Times’ Top Ten Best Books of 2005Finalist in the National Book Critic Circle Award A TIME Best Book One of TIME’s 100 Best Novels (from 1923 to the Present)Shortlisted for Page Turners, BBC One’s new book club"A clear frontrunner to be the year’s most extraordinary novel."—The Times (UK)"So exquisitely observed that even the most workaday objects and interactions are infused with a luminous, humming otherworldliness. The dystopian story it tells, meanwhile, gives it a different kind of electric charge. . . . An epic ethical horror story, told in devastatingly poignant miniature. . . . Ishiguro spins a stinging cautionary tale of science outpacing ethics."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"Perfect pacing and infinite subtlety. . . . That this stunningly brilliant fiction echoes Caryl Churchill’s superb play A Number and Margaret Atwood’s celebrated dystopian novels in no way diminishes its originality and power. A masterpiece of craftsmanship that offers an unparalleled emotional experience. Send a copy to the Swedish Academy."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"Elegiac, compelling, otherworldly, deeply disturbing and profoundly moving."—Sunday Herald (UK)"Brilliant . . . Ishiguro’s most profound statement of the endurance of human relationships. . . . The most exact and affecting of his books to date."—The Guardian (UK)"Ishiguro’s elegant prose and masterly ways with characterization make for a lovely tale of memory, self-understanding, and love."—Library Journal (starred review)"Ishiguro’s provocative subject matter and taut, potent prose have earned him multiple literary decorations, including the French government’s Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and an Order of the British Empire for service to literature…. In this luminous offering, he nimbly navigates the landscape of emotion — the inevitable link between present and past and the fine line between compassion and cruelty, pleasure and pain."—BooklistPraise for Kazuo Ishiguro:"His books are Zen gardens with no flowery metaphors, no wild, untamed weeds threatening — or allowed — to overrun the plot."—The Globe and Mail"A writer of Ishiguro’s intelligence, sensitivity and stylistic brilliance obviously offers rewards."—The Gazette (Montreal)"Kazuo Ishiguro distinguishes himself as one of our most eloquent poets of loss."—Joyce Carol Oates, TLS"Ishiguro is a stylist like no other, a writer who knows that the truth is often unspoken."—Maclean’s"One of the finest prose stylists of our time."—Michael Ondaatje"Ishiguro shows immense tenderness for his characters, however absurd or deluded they may be."—The Guardian"[Ishiguro is] an original and remarkable genius."—The New York Times Book Review