Kathy is the kind of narrator you might want to be friends with. She's nice and chatty and good grief does she have a story to tell. Sure, she doesn't always give us all the facts up front. Actually, she never gives us all the facts up front. Remember how she doesn't tell us what "donations" are until Chapter Seven? Oh, and then there's that time that she waits until halfway through the book to reveal that teensy little detail that she's a clone (12.10).
But this is half the fun of chugging along with chatty Kathy's story: she's always giving her readers only one piece of the puzzle at a time. In fact, she casually changes the subject whenever she feels like it. Take, for example, this time when Kathy decides to stop talking about Miss Emily: "But that's not really what I want to talk about just now. What I want to do now is get a few things down about Ruth" (4.31). Kathy likes to pull one-eighties like this right smack dab in the middle of a chapter. All this storytelling swerving means we have the amusing and challenging task of putting the puzzle pieces of Kathy's story back together, with very little help from our girl.
Kathy's talkative, piecemeal style also hands us another challenge: putting her memories into chronological order. Kathy can't seem to tell her story in a linear way (a.k.a. starting at the beginning and moving chronologically to the middle and then the end). Instead, she jumps between the present and the past, and hops between flashbacks at random intervals.
Kathy gives us a good description of how her memories of Hailsham work: "The earlier years—the ones I've just been telling you about—they tend to blur into each other" (7.1). Well that's exactly what happens in Kathy's story, too. The memories blur into one another, and we sometimes have a hard time figuring out what's what.
This storytelling rollercoaster is enough to make her readers dizzy. But have no fear; Shmoop is here. If the jumble of flashbacks has you wondering what happened when, then check out the timelines for Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. We've turned the mish-mashed story into a chronological one. No need to thank us… maybe.