Book review: Never Let Me Go

From the movie: Ruth, Kathy and Tommy on a windswept beach

Book review – Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro

2010 Faber and Faber (UK paperback)
ISBN: 9780571272129
282 pages
First published 2005

This delicate story has recently been made into a movie (which I haven’t seen), resulting in the publication of a new, heavily marketed paperback which caught my eye on a recent trip to London. Ishiguro had long been on my radar as I loved The Remains of the Day (both the novel and the movie).

The Sunday Times endorsement described Never Let Me Go as ‘Masterly … A novel with piercing questions about humanity and humaneness.’ I cannot argue with the assessment, but this novel didn’t do the thing I most want from a novel: it didn’t fully absorb me.

Never Let Me Go book cover

Never Let Me Go book cover

I am sure its assured understatement and slow pace will fulfill many readers – I have enjoyed the combination in other novels – but the ‘dreadful secret’ was delivered in such a slow and fractured way that by the time the picture was complete in my mind, I had already become used to its substance. The secret was indeed weighty – sad, tragically explicable – but not dreadful and, crucially, not believable.

The three main characters (Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy) were believable, touchingly so, and I did care for them. But I just couldn’t engage with their world. Was that because it was openly not this world – the setting more science fiction than merely fiction? I don’t think so: I have ‘bought into’ much more extraordinary settings as a reader. No, I think pace was to blame. Bluntly put, not enough happened to maintain my engagement. A brilliant tableau, but a flawed novel.

For readers worldwide, this book is available from It is also available from

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