Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer

Never Let Me Go – Book vs Movie


From Goodreads:

As a child, Kathy–now thirty-one years old–lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

Yes, it’s true, I FINALLY read this book – the third time really is the charm!  I’m going to try and avoid spoilers, so forgive me if this is vague.

First off, let me say that the concept was cool.  It was the execution I was not so thrilled about.

I’ve read a few of Ishiguro’s other books (When We Were Orphans and The Remains of the Day) and he has a fairly distinct writing style.  It’s almost a tell and not show, with a strange sort of detachment.  If you’ve ever read or watched Remains (both of which I enjoyed), you’ll understand.

Anyway, so there’s the writing style which made me feel like I was just sorta looking in at Kathy H’s situation, but never really becoming part of her world.  Which was okay, not a huge deal.  But I found her lack of emotions a bit bizarre.  Especially with the fact that (MAJOR SPOILER! redacted).  My husband and I have known each other since we were teenagers and if we were in Kathy and Tommy’s situation, we would have fought a hell of a lot harder to remain together.  But everyone seemed so passive aggressive and maybe that was my main problem with the book.

The movie actually did a better job of explaining the situation.  That was a plus.  So was the atmosphere – the music and cinematography had a definite moodiness to it, which I thought was warranted.  The situation is creepy as hell.  The book was so detached, I never really felt unsettled, even though I should have.

I liked the scenes when the three friends were kids.  I thought those were well done, showing (and not telling!) the feelings Kathy and Tommy have for each other.  But the older teen/adult parts were a bit meh to me.  The complexities of Kathy and Ruth’s friendships didn’t convey and Tommy didn’t do much other than stand around, smiling like an idiot.

And since the movie ended the same way as the book, the plethora of passive aggressiveness opened up my rage cage again.

So it was like I said – the concept was interesting, but the story just never clicked for me.


Author: Jennifer Pickrell

I write YA contemporary filled w/ romance, angst & family drama. Things I like: cats, snacks, baseball, green tea, taking pictures of trees & movies so bad, they’re good.

4 thoughts on “Never Let Me Go – Book vs Movie

  1. It isn’t often when the movie does a better job of telling the story than the novel. But it sounds like this is one of those rare occasions. Interesting you mention the “tell not show” as a writing style for the novel since every critter I know would bop me atop the head to make sure that I “showed with less telling.”

  2. Very interesting review– I’ve read the book, but not seen the movie. I think it’s on my netflix queue. I really enjoyed the book, but I can also appreciate all you’re saying here. I liked the mystery of the premise, and the way he slowly revealed it in the book. I thought he revealed it in a way that made you realize you’d been avoiding figuring out the truth, and that was kind of what the characters were doing as well. There WAS a distance between the reader and the characters/pov. I chalked some of that up to their purpose- -hard to talk about in a spoiler-free way. :0) I have not read anything else by the author. LOVE this review– it has got me thinking. :0)

  3. I skimmed your post because I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on the books I’ve been meaning to read. Interesting that the movie explained the situation better–that is so rare. I’m more intrigued about both.

  4. I’ve come across the detached style before. It’s not my favorite, but I can still enjoy a book written this way.

    I believe I have this in my TBR pile. I haven’t read this author yet, but I believe I watched Remains of the Day long ago.

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