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

Never Let Me Go

byKazuo Ishiguro

Paperback | August 31, 2010

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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.
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Title:Never Let Me GoFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.6 inPublished:August 31, 2010Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307400999

ISBN - 13:9780307400994

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Customer Reviews of Never Let Me Go

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from My ultimate favourite book of all time Melancholy, nostalgic, heartbreaking -- and one of the best-crafted novels I've ever read. This book is unforgettable.
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bittersweet and wonderful One of my favourite books! Very well written with an interesting story and compelling characters.
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read the Book, Watch the Movie You can totally enjoy both the movie and the book in this case, but read the book first. It of course has more detail, which I always like.
Date published: 2017-09-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth the read I recently finished reading this, and I really liked it. The majority of the book was interesting enough but not extremely exciting. I loved the concept and the overall story, but it can be hard to get into.
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth the read I recently finished reading this, and I really liked it. The majority of the book was interesting enough but not extremely exciting. I loved the concept and the overall story, but it can be hard to get into.
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth the read I recently finished reading this, and I really liked it. The majority of the book was interesting enough but not extremely exciting. I loved the concept and the overall story, but it can be hard to get into.
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great story I actually read this book in a university English course. Usually I hate the books I read in school, but I loved this one. The storyline really makes you think about what it means to be human and raises issues with our society. However, it isn't a boring book. It has a great storyline, relatable characters, and a compelling plot.
Date published: 2017-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazkng This book is so fascinating. The attitudes of the characters towards the life they are expected to read is both intriguing and heartbreaking. Interesting concept and a fresh take on the idea. #plumreviews
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Okay It was interesting enough but I had a hard time relating to the main character.
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not a favorite When I first got my hands on this book, I couldn't wait to dive in. The premise was so interesting and I couldn't wait to see how the story develops. I was a bit disappointed to see that it doesn't develop all that much (don't get me wrong, it is still a beautifully written book, but there were so many ways in which the author could have further developed it and chose not to).
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sutle Eerie and Chilling. Let Me Go is a well written work of fiction which raises questions of what it is to be human, what you choose to do in the face of an impending death and what happens when science is not accompanied by ethics. I really enjoyed this book. The author is brilliant at building layers in his characters. This would be a great book club selection since it will no doubt generate a lot of discussion. #plumreviews.
Date published: 2017-05-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from decent book non genre writers, when writing genre, have such a chip on their shoulder about writing sci-fi. Ishiguro swears up and down that this isn't science fiction, that it's a social commentary. LIKE IT CAN'T BE BOTH. Altogether decent, but unoriginal premise. Lots of sci-fi writers have been there before.
Date published: 2017-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Had a hard time putting down the book
Date published: 2017-05-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Subtle Fantastic book! A very subtle speculative fiction story that forces you to think about the future of humanity.
Date published: 2017-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring This book captured my attention from the very beginning. The plot was original, and the journey the main character goes through is really interesting.
Date published: 2017-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favourite Novel "Never Let Me Go" manages to feel nostalgic, futuristic, and timeless all at once. Absolutely one-of-a-kind. Ishiguro is masterful.
Date published: 2017-04-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Intriguing storyline I had to read to the end but I found the story as disturbing as it was interesting.
Date published: 2017-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This book kept getting better and better. I loved the twist halfway through. It certainly kept my attention and is an interesting mix of "what ifs". Was drsmatic and heartbreaking. Would highly recommend
Date published: 2017-03-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Confusing Reading all the other reviews - I wonder if I have missed something? I did not like the book. Could not follow. I had to finish it and was very disappointed.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heart-wrenching This book made me cry harder than any book I have ever read (except Harry Potter)
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just meh A long and winding look at the ethics behind clones, cloning, and organ harvesting - mundane and drawn out for taste. 2.5/5
Date published: 2017-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a unique and intimate read This books story is so compelling and I cannot get over how well it is written. I Highly recommend purchasing this book!
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Devastating A sci-fi novel that doesn't fit in the genre. A romance that doesn't fit in the genre. A dystopia set in a utopia? Such an interesting read and so heavy.
Date published: 2017-02-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from School Reading This book was assigned in school and to be honest I did not enjoy it much...
Date published: 2017-01-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It's best if you didn't know anything A lot of people have said that it's best to go into this knowing as little as possible. PLEASE take this advice! The premise of this novel really is best received when it is unfolded bit by bit to the reader in its subtleties.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! What an amazing book! It truly is a great read.
Date published: 2017-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great! Couldn't be happier with my purchase.
Date published: 2017-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Storytelling I really love this book, it is sad and frustrating and beautiful all at the same time. It is cool that you follow the characters from childhood and throughout the rest of their lives. It focuses on friendship, love, lust, and death as well as a bit on what it means to be human. I really recommend this book.
Date published: 2017-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartbreakingly Beautiful An absolutely beautiful book with a power message about society. It will take you through a whirlwind of emotions.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sad, but beautiful I adored this book. One of the more unique dystopians with characters that will pull at your heart strings.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Distopia at it's finest This book broke my heart. It showed me love, it made me cry, it made me think. I recommend this book to everyone. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sad and heartbreaking! This is one of those books I come back to when I need a good cry! The characters presented are likable, and the moments in the book are tragic!! Also is a great book for discussion
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great story What's starts off as a typical story about misfits at a private school turns into something completely different, disturbing, and awesome. Great story, characters, and writing.
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from slow but powerful I read this book with a friend and we both enjoyed it. It can be a slow book, but the message is very powerful. Made me think a lot.
Date published: 2016-11-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Two fatal errors.... *spoiler alert* Spoiler alert - this will give away some of the ending. This book has (at least) two fatal flaws: 1. Why do the donors die after four donations? The author does not even attempt to provide a rationale for this to occur. A little more depth as to what is being collected would give this book some credibility. 2. Why do the characters never figure out what is going on, or try to change things? Even with full access to 'society' they all seem to lack any intellectual curiosity about their existence or fate. I found this book failed to answer some fundamental questions that might have made its premise plausible. Without considering more about the science of what is going on, or allowing the characters to question their own existence, they became more like sheep and less like people.
Date published: 2011-10-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Haunting Novel made less so by Knowing the Ending This was a beautifully written, understated book that meanders along at a quiet pace. I have to admit that I knew the twist and that took away from the haunting experience of reading it because Ishiguro never really explicits states what is going on, its up to the reader to determine the tragic fate of the characters. This is one of those books where reading spoilers or watching the movie beforehand will ruin the experience of the book. Even though I knew the secret, the style with which Ishiguro writes kept me reading. He ends each chapter as if he is about to divulge a huge secret and I kept turning pages to see what else he could add to this bleak version of our world
Date published: 2011-03-06

Read from the Book

Chapter OneMy 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.”

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