Book Review: Never Let Me Go

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I recently made off like a bandit at a library book sale, picking up 8 books for just $1-$2 apiece. I was delighted to pick up some old classics, some recently released hits, and a few books that might be considered modern-day classics.

What’s a modern-day classic?

You know those books that came out maybe 10 or 15 years ago that were huge hits and were nominated for some great prizes? You know those books that are old enough that they slipped under your radar, but new enough that they haven’t become true classics yet?

That’s what I’m talking about!

As you can tell from the title of this blog post, the modern-day classic I’m reviewing today is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Never Let Me Go was undeniably a success when it first came out in 2005. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was made into a movie with an A-list cast in 2010. I was fifteen and busy with high school when the book first came out, so I guess that can be my excuse for why I didn’t read it when it was getting all the attention. I’m all caught up on it now though so let’s move on to the review…

Never Let Me Go is full of immersive and emotive writing. It embodies the quiet yet deep style that really lets you sink into a book, and that makes you want to read everything the author has penned, simply because you trust his skill, no matter what the subject matter may be.

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Those who know me or who have worked with me as an editor know that I’m obsessed with theme. Theme is ultimately the thing that will make or break a book for me. What can be really hard to do is to weave and layer a meaningful and potent theme throughout a book with just the right level of delicacy, so that readers don’t feel like they’re being hit over the head. Never Let Me Go is an excellent case-study in this balance, and I have a feeling I’ll be returning to it as a reference. Ishiguro approaches the book and its themes with a delicate hand that I admire and seek to emulate. For readers who aren’t as consciously obsessed with theme as I am, they will still find that the book prompts deep reflection.

The characterization and narrative voice in this novel are particularly strong, and perhaps that’s what allows Ishiguro to approach his theme so delicately. We’re drawn into the life of the main character Kathy, and are invited to reflect on her world, her experiences, and the big questions she is facing.

As the story evolves and the realities of the dystopian world in which the book takes place becomes clear, readers become more and more immersed in the book’s central questions, and are able to reflect on how those questions may translate to their own lives.

If you enjoy evocative writing and truly skilled speculative fiction, I highly recommend Never Let Me Go.


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