Writer and editor displays her work and interests

A Book Review

Monday 19 August 2013 - Filed under Books + Penned by a Friend

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by John Wesley Smith

A few years ago I read a science fiction story that was so captivating, I decided to read it again. That’s something I seldom do. But it made such an impression on me I felt strangely compelled recently to read it again and share my thoughts about it with you.

The book is Never let me go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. The NLS reference number is DB59667.

The story is the firsthand account of Kathy H. Main characters are Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. The first third of the book recounts their experiences attending a very special school in England called Hailsham, which colored everything else about the rest of their lives.

See if you can relate to their school life by answering a series of questions.

Were you viewed as different, perhaps even feared or dreaded?

Were you sheltered, isolated or segregated from the rest of society?

Were you constantly surrounded by your own kind?

Were the bright mixed with the slow, where attributes stood out more noticeably than in the general public?

Were you special, but separate from the rest of the world?

Did you experience comradery and vbonding unique to your situation?

Were your career choices limited by who and what you are?

Did a separate set of rules apply to you compared to those in the rest of the world?

Were you required to follow certain restrictions, such as avoid smoking, eat healthfully and be careful with whom you had sex?

Were you clueless about the world and how it really works? Were you afraid of it?

Do you feel like you were fooled or lied to about the world and your place in it?

Do you feel like you were a pawn in a game?

By the end of the book, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy could answer yes to all of those questions. If you attended a state school for the blind, or if you were a day student like I was, you can probably answer affirmatively to more of those questions than you’re comfortable with.

But Kathy and her friends weren’t blind. Perhaps those who go to any kind of boarding school have certain experiences in common. And that’s what makes Never Let Me Go so intriguing to me. I’ve never read a story that I could identify with so closely.

This is a commercial audio book read by Rosalyn Landor who does an excellent job. She’s as good as any NLS narrator we’re familiar with.

Before I tell you more, here’s the NLS description.

Never let me go DB 59667 Ishiguro, Kazuo. Reading time: 9 hours, 41 minutes. Read by Rosalyn Landor.

Science Fiction Psychological Fiction

England, 1990s. Kathy H., Ruth, and Tommy attended Hailsham, one of the better academies where human clones bred to be organ donors are sheltered from reality. Now thirty-one, Kathy has been a donor caregiver for eleven years. As her own time to donate nears, Kathy appreciates her privileged upbringing. Commercial audiobook. 2005.

You heard right. These students were special because they were human clones. Therefore, they had a unique place in society. Their lives were predestined. They would grow up, serve as caregivers for other clones who donated organs. Then they would donate their own. When one of them died, they were said to have completed.

Kathy’s reminiscences are not necessarily in chronological order. Flashbacks are wonderfully woven into the story in a way that will certainly keep your interest.

The book deals a great deal with self discovery as the three students and their school mates strive to find their identities. Relationships are those you’d expect in a segregated situation, including cliques and secretive games. Unsolved mysteries keep the kids guessing as well. For example, who was the mysterious Madame, and what purpose did her rumored art gallery serve?

A favorite guardian or instructor, Miss Lucy, showed great sympathy and shared revelations no one else dared to. And then she wasn’t at the school any more.

The title of the book, Never Let me Go, came from song lyrics on a cassette tape Kathy owned. The tape plays a role at key places in the story. It was stolen at school, but Kathy obtained another copy several years later. The title song is mentioned again near the end of the story.

At the climax, Kathy and Tommy meet with Miss Emily, the matron of the school, and Madame, her associate. They engage in a revelatory, touching and gripping conversation.

They’re told that cloning has been going on since post World War II years. And–spoiler alert–the question is raised, Do clones have souls? That’s where Hailsham came in. But the school had to close.

You’ll just have to read the book to find out more. If you’re like me, you’ll be sad to say goodbye to these characters and their story.

If I could offer one criticism of the book, it would be that it’s ultimately fatalistic. Why didn’t one of the clones break free from their presumed life course? But then, why don’t we?

John Wesley Smith is a blind writer from Missouri who puts most of his creative efforts into his blog site at

2013-08-19  »  Marilyn Brandt Smith