Full title  Never Let Me Go

Author  Kazuo Ishiguro

Type of work  Novel

Genre  dystopia; science fiction; coming-of-age story

Language  English

Time and place written  England, between 1990 and the early 2000s

Date of first publication  2005

Publisher  Knopf (New York), Faber and Faber (London)

Narrator  Kathy H.

Point of view  The narrator (Kathy) speaks in the first person, so the reader only sees her point of view. Kathy describes her memories of characters and events subjectively, offering her own thoughts and reflections. She frequently makes assumptions about the thoughts and motivations of others.

Tone  Reflective, nostalgic, somber

Tense  Kathy speaks in the present tense, but switches to past tense when sharing memories of the past.

Setting (time)  Late 1990s, although Kathy’s memories reach as far back as the early 1970s.

Setting (place)  Various locations in England, including the (fictional) Hailsham school, the (also fictional) Cottages, and the towns of Norfolk, Dover, and Kingsfield.

Protagonist  Kathy H.

Major conflict  Kathy wrestles with the loss of her childhood friends Ruth and Tommy by turning to her memories the past, recalling her complex relationship with each one and with the Hailsham school where they grew up together.

Rising action  Kathy recalls growing up with Ruth and Tommy at Hailsham, where ambiguous references to their future as “donors” punctuate their idyllic childhood. As they become young adults, they hope in different ways for the possibility of changing or deferring this future.

Climax  Kathy and Tommy visit Madame’s house, where Miss Emily cuts off their last hope for more time together when she reveals that deferrals on donations do not exist.

Falling action  Kathy spends a last few weeks with Tommy before he completes on his fourth donation, leaving her with her memories as she waits to become a donor herself.

Themes  The relentless passage of time and the inevitability of loss; the power of memory; the dignity of human life

Motifs  Copies, pretending and fantasy, lost and found

Symbols  The open-plan office, the song “Never Let Me Go,” the boat

Foreshadowing  The woods beyond Hailsham foreshadow the grim future awaiting the students when they leave; Tommy’s childhood tantrums foreshadow the grief that he and Kathy share in the aftermath of their visit to Madame; the loss of Kathy’s tape foreshadows the many losses that she will later experience as an adult