Why ‘Never Let Me Go’ is a Novel You Should Read Right Now

Kazuo Ishiguro’s twisted award-winning 2005 novel is one of the best I’ve ever read. Here’s why.

Brian Rowe
Read. Watch. Write. Repeat.
12 min readMay 4, 2019


Photo by Pexels at Pixabay

The Story

Never Let Me Go tells of a society where clones are educated and brought up solely to provide their vital organs for regular people in the world. The novel is told in first person, past tense, double-I from the perspective of a woman named Kathy, one of the clones who is reflecting on her life story. The book takes place over three parts. In the first part, Kathy and her two best friends Ruth and Tommy live in an idyllic location in England called Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school where they live year-round, never to leave and explore past specific fences around the property. Strange occurrences start to irk Kathy even from a young age, where she notices the strange teachers staring at her in her room, and listens to stories about the gruesome murders of students who made it out of the school grounds.

It is in the second part, where the trio has finally left the school for a place called the Cottages, where Ruth and Tommy begin a romance and Kathy starts to realize the true nature of their lives. It turns out that everyone who started at Hailsham are effectively clones who were created specifically to donate their organs to regular people in need. By their late teens, they all know this but they continue living their lives the best they can, even when Ruth is chosen as an early donor, The three spend some more time together, reflecting on their memories of Hailsham, until Ruth becomes weaker and weaker, and then the worst imaginable outcome occurs, leaving the characters at a place that feels both tragic and inevitable.

The Themes

The novel has four important themes, all of which make the narrative richer and more complex than many of the novels I have read so far for my annotated bibliography. The first theme is Mysterious Existence. From the beginning of the novel, there’s something unusual about the existence of the three central characters — Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy —…