Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Never Let Me Go” has been on my reading list for a long time. I remember adding it to my list back when I still kept track of books that I wanted to read on the Notes app on my iPhone. But somehow, over the years, it kept slipping further and further down my list, and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I decided to read it on a whim.

On the night that I bought it, I had plans to meet a friend for dinner after work. But dinner reservations were for that awkward time that would make me too early by going straight from the office, but not really worth it if I went home first. So naturally I stopped at a bookstore on the way to kill some time. I’m participating in a book exchange that one of my friends started, so I needed to stop there anyway to pick up a copy of “The Alchemist” to send off. I remember wandering around the bookstore aimlessly, going from the fiction section to biographies to business books, trying to find something for myself. And then I noticed “Never Let Me Go,” and I remembered how long I’ve been wanting to read it, so I grabbed it and left.

I’m rambling a little bit about why I bought it because I don’t want to go into too much detail about the book itself. The basic summary of the book is this: Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grew up together at an exclusive boarding school in the English countryside. Now they’re adults and have reentered each others’ lives, and Kathy finds herself reflecting on and trying to understand everything about their past. That’s not much of a description, but I feel like that’s all I really knew when I started reading the book. And I think I enjoyed it so much because I didn’t know too much about it- which is why I’m trying to avoid talking about the plot here. This is one of those novels that doesn’t really have an introductory scene, it just picks up with one of the characters going about their day. You don’t really know what’s going on, or why they’re doing what they’re doing, or to some extent what they’re talking about. But you figure it out as you keep reading, and everything settles into place.

Another thing that took some getting used to was the conversational tone of the book. It’s written in Kathy’s point of view, and it’s as if she’s sitting with you and telling you a story. But it’s just like any story that a friend or family member tries to tell you; sometimes she backtracks to explain other details before starting on one topic, and at other times it feels like she’s getting ahead of herself and talking about things you don’t understand yet. But once I got used to her tone, it almost made the book seem more intimate. I felt more connected with the characters, and to everything that happened to them.

Once I started to understand the characters, and what the premise of the novel was about, it became more and more heartbreaking. And it wasn’t sad in the sense that I was crying over any particular scene (there were no tears shed, I’m not much of a crier when it comes to books). It was more of a growing sense of pity and compassion for the characters. But I don’t want to say too much about it, because I think not knowing is part of the beauty of the novel.

This book is one that I’m really trying to encourage my friends to read, mainly because I want to talk about it! But I also think it would be great for a book club; there are a lot of topics presented that would make a good discussion. When it comes to enjoying books I think some are meant to be consumed all at once, and the thrill is in reading the story as it happens. For other books, I think the pleasure is in the way they sit with you after you finished reading them. “Never Let Me Go” is definitely one of the latter, at least for me. I’m so happy that I finally decided to read it, and I can’t wait to hear what other people think.

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