Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Chapter 1

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Chapter 1

  • Part 1 of Never Let Me Go starts off with adult Kathy H. musing about her job as a "carer." Don't know what that means yet? Thinking about changing your career goals? Not so fast. We recommend you keep reading before chucking your professional dreams in the can in favor of this cool-sounding gig.
  • Kathy has been working as a carer for over eleven years. She's pretty proud of the fact that the "donors" she looks after have good recovery time after giving a "donation." She keeps them comfortable even when they're close to "completing." So far, this donor business sounds a bit too ominous for our liking.
  • Since Kathy is so good at her job, she gets to enjoy some perks like picking which donors to look after in the recovery centers. This special treatment is how she ends up reconnecting with her old chums Ruth and Tommy.
  • We learn that back in the day Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grew up in a place called Hailsham. Kathy is fairly vague about what kind of place this is. Is it a school? An orphanage? An idyllic spa getaway? One thing is crystal clear: all the non-Hailsham donors and carers are jealous that Kathy grew up in this mysterious place.
  • In fact, despite all the driving Kathy does nowadays, she can never find her old home.
  • Sometimes, Kathy thinks she sees a building or sports pavilion that reminds her of Hailsham and she becomes the world's worst driver: "If I drive past one I keep looking over to it for as long as possible, and one day I'll crash the car like that, but I keep doing it" (1.8). Seriously, keep your eyes on the road, Kathy.
  • Oh, and if you think carer and donor are unfamiliar terms, Kathy also gives us some abstract references to "collection chests," "Sales," and "guardians." Um, what?
  • So chatty Kathy may not be giving us a ton of concrete information just yet, but her story of hoping to find Hailsham meanders into a more detailed memory about its sports pavilion.
  • The pavilion was the place where all the cool kids hung out on breaks. Kathy and her friends got to chill at the pavilion because they had Ruth, the coolest cat around.
  • On one specific day at Hailsham many years ago, Kathy, Ruth, and their girl posse were hanging out at the pavilion and watching a group of boys play football (cue giggling). And by football we mean UK football (you know, soccer).
  • While the boys get ready to pick teams, the girls pay attention to Tommy. Tommy thinks he's going to get picked first. So you just know that he's going to get picked last… or not at all.
  • And this is exactly what happens. Tommy gets left out of the football game and the mean boys laugh at him. Tommy reacts to this rejection in the least cool way possible—by throwing a "thunderous bellowing" tantrum (1.23). Way to play it cool, Tom.
  • Apparently, throwing tantrums is sort of a signature move for Tommy. So the girls think all this screaming-foot-stomping-limb-flinging-in-the-mud stuff is old hat.
  • But eventually Kathy takes pity on her friend. Sadly for Tantrum Tommy, his bad day is about to get worse. When Kathy tries to comfort him, Tommy's swinging arm hits Kathy across the face. Even in this weird world of carers and donors, hitting just isn't cool.
  • Kathy is forgiving because she thinks it was an accident. But Tommy's bad attitude tests even her patience and she, Ruth, and the girls leave Tommy alone on the football field.