Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The story begins with Kathy H., who describes herself as a carer, talking about looking after organ donors. She has been a carer for almost twelve years at the time of narration, and she often reminisces about her time spent at Hailsham, a boarding school in England, where the teachers are known as guardians. The children are watched closely and are often told about the importance of producing art and of being healthy. The students’ art is then displayed in an exhibition, and the best art is chosen by a woman known to the students as Madame, who keeps their work in a gallery. Kathy develops a close friendship with two other students: Ruth and Tommy. Kathy develops a fondness for Tommy by looking after him when he is bullied and having private talks with him. However, Tommy and Ruth form a relationship instead.


In an isolated incident, Miss Lucy, one of the guardians, tells the students that they are clones who were created to donate organs to others (similar to saviour siblings) and that after their donations, they will die young. She implies that if the students are to live decent lives, they must know the truth: their lives are already predetermined. Miss Lucy is removed from the school as a result of her disclosure, but the students passively accept their fate.


Ruth, Tommy and Kathy move into the Cottages at the age of 16. It’s the first time they’ve been allowed to socialize with the outside world, but they keep to themselves most of the time.  A few weeks later, Kathy asks to become a caregiver, which means she won’t see either Ruth or Tommy for about ten years.


Ruth’s first donation goes badly and her health deteriorates. Kathy becomes Ruth’s caregiver and they both know that Ruth’s next donation will probably be her last. Ruth suggests that she and Kathy go on a trip and take Tommy with them. During the trip, Ruth regrets separating Kathy and Tommy. Shortly afterwards, Ruth makes her second donation and finishes, an implicit euphemism for dying, donating her remaining organs.

Kathy becomes Tommy’s caregiver and they strike up a relationship. 


Tommy, knowing that his next donation will end his life, confronts Kathy about her work as a caregiver. Kathy resigns as caregiver, but continues to visit Tommy. The novel ends after the end of Tommy’s life. Kathy drives to Norfolk and briefly fantasizes about all she remembers and all she has lost.


Kazuo Ishiguro (石黒 一雄, Ishiguro Kazuo), born November 8, 1954 in Nagasaki, is a Japanese-born writer, novelist, musician and screenwriter naturalized British in 1983.

On October 5, 2017, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature because “he has revealed, in novels of great emotional power, the abyss beneath the illusion we have of our relationship to the world,” according to the explanation of the Swedish Academy.


Louise Dufossé



Related Articles