Never let me go

Before I begin what is undoubtedly going to be a rather painful review of a book that, after much excitement, sadly left me a little cold… I would first of all like to announce the return of my mystery Withington reader who has been tantalising the boyfriend and I with his book choices for months…

This gentleman is truly remarkable. Not only does he seem to choose our local bar’s busiest nights (mostly Fri/Sat..) to pop down for a beer, whatever happens, whatever the noise level or his personal seating arrangement he manages to happily tuck into an impressive range of titles and I am just dying to find an excuse to speak with him. For now, however, I will have to be content  to watch on in admiration. This month our mystery man’s chosen read is Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie. What a guy….

Anyway, I digress – mainly to avoid writing a difficult review…

Why is it that books I desperately want to read but simply have not got around to yet seem to be swiftly transformed into films starring, of all people, Keira flippin’ Knightly. (e.g. Atonement, Anna Karenina, Silk…Never let me go is no exception and I had dangerously high expectations. Having read and loved both Remains of the day and An artist of the floating world I felt comfortable enough with Ishiguro’s neat, enigmatic prose to push forward with his latest novel – anything, frankly, to stop being given disappointed looks by all the Knightly converts out there …

Ishiguro’s terrifying tale begins life at Hailsham Boarding School; an institution set up to house, on the face of it, orphaned children who are brought up in this cloistered environment to understand and accept their true purpose in life – one where an emphasis on healthy living and creativity will be of the utmost importance. Ishiguro constructs his dystopian version of 1980s/90s Britain and the lives of students Kathy, Ruth and Tommy so subtly that we are held in suspense over their fate for a large portion of the novel. Whether in the dark over their future or not, the combination of Kathy’s fatalistic, Tommy’s positive and Ruth’s manipulative behaviour helps to emphasize the horrifying reality that lurks around the corner and the essentially bittersweet nature of Cathy’s childhood Hailsham memories.

Faber & Faber : paperback : 2006 : fiction : 282 pages

The crux of my problem is this – Never let me go just wasn’t as earth-shatteringly amazing as I had been led to believe. The unfortunate victim of far. too. much. hype. Now, before you all turn away from Literary Relish with disgust, let me make it quite clear that the dystopian world that Ishiguro has created here really is impressive; thrilling, harrowing, shocking, you name a similar adjective, it’s sure to apply. The trouble is, it simply lacked something essential for me. Although I appreciate that the detached, emotionally repressed feeling of the novel and its main protagonists may be deliberate – i.e. the children simply accepting a fate that the reader struggles to reconcile him/herself with, the book lacked the heart and soul I required to really feel affected. And I so wanted to be. I love Ishiguro.

All the same, the novel’s ‘numb’ qualities very cleverly help to maintain the feeling that Cathy and her friends are, essentially, stuck in an inescapable, terrifying limbo for the entirety of their short lives. Ishiguro successfully keeps the book unnerving and suspenseful throughout, even if I didn’t entirely feel the love…


8 thoughts on “Never let me go

  1. The Withington Reader sounds like a man worth knowing, maybe you could invite him to the Manchester Book Club?! To be honest the Keira Knightly connection has put me off reading this one which I know is faintly ridiculous but I feel I will have a vision of her pout in the back of my mind the whole time.


    1. Ah hah! Not faintly ridiculous at all 🙂 and now knowing you’re put off in the same way makes me feel all the better so thankyou!
      Our mystery reader is so intriguing – a small number of the Manc Book Club went drinking there yesterday afternoon and I was secretly hoping he might turn up and earwig on our bookish conversations but…alas….no sign…


  2. It’s good to find at least one other person that’s not head over heels with this one. It ruined a summer holiday for me! I don’t usually mind depressing books with a good concept, but there was something missing from Never Let Me Go.

    The film is absolute rubbish by the way. It’s very boring and the horrible truth of what’s going on is shown pretty much from the start which means that the building feeling that something is not quite right (the only impressive thing about the book) is completely missing. I don’t mind Keira too much, but she does seem to be taking over literary adaptations!


    1. She is …I don’t really dislike her per say – I actually think she’s very good as Cecilia in Atonement but *sigh* – I’ve just finished The Night Circus which is bound to be turned into a film…most probably with Knightly as Celia! 😀
      I’ll steer well clear of the film version of Never Let Me Go I think! So glad I’m not the only one who felt this one of Ishiguro’s was a little lackluster…


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