Structure and Setting
Never Let Me Go is set in England in the late 1990’s.
The novel is entirely narrated by Kathy who looks back on her life and explores her relationships with her friends and teachers she met in her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School.
At the time of her narration Kathy is 31 years old and is working as a ‘carer’. Her role as a carer seems familiar to us as readers, in the sense that she looks after people who are ill. She casually refers to the people she is caring for as ‘doners’ who we will discover continue to donate until they complete’. Completion is a euphemism for death.
Kathy appears preoccupied by her childhood and the purpose of her story seems as much a quest to rediscover that childhood as it is to inform us about it.
Throughout the novel it is essential for the reader to remember that we are only presented with events entirely as Kathy perceives them. Kathy only informs the reader about the events she wants us to know about, so certain key occurrences may be hidden, distorting the reader’s understanding and knowledge.
The reader needs to consider if Kathy can be trusted as a truthful narrator. Is she manipulating the reader to see the events as she thinks they should be seen? What reasons could she have for not telling the truth?
It is also essential to look closely at the opening page of the novel. Kathy assumes we have a prior knowledge of the society in which she lives, but of course we do not. This makes the novel’s opening quite confusing for the reader, until further details become apparent as we read on.