Book Review: Never Let Me Go

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grow up in what appears to be an idyllic English boarding school – but not everything is what it seems. The children at this school are groomed for a specific and special purpose. They are genetically engineered clones, bred to end their lives as organ donors for the rest of the population.

It is almost impossible to review a book like Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go without giving away major plot points. This is because the author gives you all the information you need to know from page one. The plot is not what makes this book remarkable; this is a book about characters, and the ways they react to extraordinary circumstances.

Kathy narrates the story, relating her memories of her childhood, and her friendship with Ruth – a manipulative but sensitive classmate – and Tommy, a kindred spirit with a volatile temper. The narration moves from memories of the children’s years at Hailsham, the boarding in the English countryside, to their time spent together after graduating, to Kathy’s present, as she reviews the path her life has taken.

The members of the Barista’s Book Group at the Plaza Branch read Never Let Me Go in February as part of the 2011 Adult Winter Reading program, and while it would be a long shot to say that it was the group’s favorite book – most found it too unsettling and sad to truly enjoy it – it certainly brought out a rousing discussion.

Many were frustrated by what seemed to be the characters' placid acceptance of their fates. Never once, in all Kathy’s remembrances, does she or any other character attempt to escape. But, as someone pointed out, the children are not bred to question – they are bred more like a herd of livestock, or even a crop for harvesting. They are simply living as best they can, in the way they have been conditioned.

Though all were agreed that nothing about the book was supposed to be realistic, they also felt it was more a coming-of-age story than any kind of science fiction. Never Let Me Go was made into a movie in 2010, and those who had seen it thought that idea was reinforced by the film.

In all, the members of Barista’s book club found the book a challenging read, but worth the effort.

About the Author

-- Diana Hyle is a reference librarian at the Plaza Branch. To join the Barista's Book Group, e-mail her at or call 816.701.3481. The Barista's Book Club's next selection is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Learn more about all of our Library book groups.