Nostalgia in Never Let Me Go

During the course of the novel, Kathy spends a great deal of her time reminiscing about the past. She feels nostalgic about the time she spent in Hailsham and, on the whole, has only fond memories of the years she lived there, I can remember us back in the Juniors, pleading with guardians to hold the next lesson in the pavilion instead of the usual room.

When she is a carer Kathy gets to speak to many donors and one of them complains to her about their memories fading rather quickly. Kathy however disagrees with this, commenting, The memories I value most, I don’t see them ever fading. I lost Ruth, then I lost Tommy, but I won’t lose my memories of them. This is the reason why Kathy’s memories of the past are so important to her and why the majority of the novel is told in flashback.

By the time Kathy is in her thirties, she has lost everyone and everything that has ever been of any importance; Hailsham School has closed and both Ruth and Tommy have completed. All Kathy has left are her memories. Looking back with nostalgia to the past is all Kathy can do in order to comfort herself. Everything that has ever meant anything to Kathy now exists entirely in her head; her memories are her only link to the past and are therefore extremely precious to her. It is for this reason that the reader finds out very little about Kathy’s present life. Even when she is describing her life as it presently is, she quickly begins recalling the past.

How is the theme of nostalgia shown in the novel?

In Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro shows the theme of nostalgia through:

  • Kathy’s constant comments about her past
  • the comments Kathy makes about the importance of allowing herself to reminisce

Kathy’s constant comments about her past

How does Kazuo Ishiguro show this?

Throughout Kathy’s narration it becomes obvious that whatever she does and wherever she is, aspects of her past are constantly on Kathy’s mind.


Driving around the country now, I still see things that will remind me of Hailsham. I might pass the corner of a misty field or see part of a large house in the distance as I come down the side of a valley…


Even when Kathy is driving from one recovery centre to another, she cannot help but recall the past. Here, for example, she tries to find what remains of Hailsham as she journeys through the countryside. It is as if thoughts of her past fill every moment of Kathy’s life.

The comments Kathy makes about the importance of allowing herself to reminisce

How does Kazuo Ishiguro show this?

Kathy admits that there have been times when she has wondered if she should try to leave her past behind in order to focus on the present.


There have been times over the years when I’ve tried to leave Hailsham behind; when I’ve told myself I shouldn’t look back so much. But then there came a point when I stopped resisting.


Kathy finds it comforting to remember the past so she realises there is no point in resisting the urge to be nostalgic about it. Everyone she has ever cared for has died; reminiscing about Tommy and Ruth is the only way to keep them alive in her memory. Also, as a clone, she has a limited future. There is little point in Kathy making plans for a life she will never have. Therefore, the past is a safe haven and something that cannot be taken away from her.