Audiobook Review | Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

About the Book

An alternate cover edition of this ISBN can be found here.

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

288 pages (paperback)
9 hours 46 minutes (audiobook)
Published on August 31, 2010
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I get about half of my audiobooks from my various online library sources, which means that about half of the audiobooks I listen to are completely random things that just happen to be available when I’m looking to download something. Never Let Me Go was one such book. I hadn’t ever heard about it before. I read the synopsis and though, huh… interesting and went from there.

Ishiguro is an apparently well known author I’ve never heard of before. When I looked at Goodreads, it seems like just about everyone alive has read at least one of his books. I’m late on this train, but I’m glad I finally made it. Because, wow. This is also a hard book to talk about, because I really want to give absolutely nothing away. I think this is a book where, the less you know, the more you get from it. So I’m going to skip a lot of details and be as vague as possible because otherwise I think I’m ripping you off. Basically, don’t read a ton of reviews. Don’t deliberate. Just read this book. That’s really all you need to know.

Never Let Me Go is kind of like falling down a rabbit hole. It’s told in an interesting way where our protagonist, Kathy, is remembering her life, and sort of talking it all out to herself. It’s surprisingly absorbing to hear someone tell the story of her life. And she isn’t shy about saying, “I might not be remembering this right…” or “I’m pretty sure it happened this way…” at points throughout the novel, so you feel the effect of time and memories on the story. Who knows how accurate any of this actually is, because the passage of time impacts memories dramatically. However, regardless of how accurate it is, it’s very, very compelling.

A note I should add here is, the audiobook narration was absolutely superb. Rosalyn Landor really went out of her way to do this book justice. I didn’t really feel like she was reading it as much as I felt like I was actually listening to Kathy tell the story of her life to me. I think this book probably impacted me even more due to how fantastic she was with brining Kathy’s voice to life for me.

The book starts out with Kathy telling her story, and at the start of it she seems just like an average rich kid stuck in a privileged boarding school talking about things of that nature. Slowly, so subtly you almost don’t realize it is happening, Ishiguro takes away the blindfold so readers see what is really there, under the surface. You realize that these kids, and their life really isn’t normal at all, and the reasons they are where they are is haunting, and terribly sad. They are, in just about every way imaginable, victims to the “greater good” and that’s really why the novel is so powerful.

There is a whole lot of heart here, and a ton of powerful emotion. The first half of the book is the school days, the second half is these characters starting to live in the real world as adults. It’s incredible how painful that real world is, especially when relationships are formed, and when Kathy goes to the people who used to run the boarding school and learns the truth of who they are and their role in the world larger around them.

Never Let Me Go emotionally eviscerated me. There is no other way around that hard truth. The relationships are so realistically formed. The truths that are dealt with are stunningly painful, the insight into the impacts of certain decisions is absolutely unique, and the ending was just about the most poignant, emotionally packed climax I’ve ever experienced. The story itself is pretty deep, about the people who are directly impacted by some of the choices that societies make. These are the people we marginalize, push aside, tend to slip through the cracks and forget. Kathy gives them all a voice through her vibrant memories, and it’s pretty incredible, and very humbling to read a book told by someone who exists purely because of decisions that society made. We think of a lot of the choices and decisions society makes in an unattached, disengaged sort of way, but Kathy makes readers attach and engage and due to that, this book is phenomenally powerful.

Its interesting just how Ishiguro explored moral issues through the eyes of those who pay for it (so to speak). And it’s fantastic how he uses the rabbit hole.  By the time you realize things aren’t what they seem, that this is taking place in some sort of sick parallel world that is shockingly, hauntingly realistic, you’re in too deep to turn around. This book gets in your head, in your heart, and in your blood, and you feel every inch of it keenly. It makes you think, and it will stick with you long after it’s over.

Never Let me Go was a masterpiece of storytelling. It was slow and deliberate and incredibly well thought out with plenty of emotional punches and surprises that kept me on my toes. The underlying message was deep and evocative, and made me really examine the marginalized and ignored groups of people that humanity has shoved aside due to our various choices. It has made me look at the prices that are paid so people have options.

This book is powerful. This book is essential. Read it.


5/5 stars


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