The opening lines of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro are unnerving. A raw tension runs just beneath the surface, which contrasts sharply with the pleasant tone of Katy H., the narrator. We know something's out of place from the outset. It's like coming back home and feeling that somebody's already been there before us. They haven't taken anything, but things are not where they're supposed to be. And we wonder what? And why? And we slowly move from sentence to sentence, to avoid missing clues. And all the while we fear the worst. But we read on.
"My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That'll make it almost exactly twelve years. Now I know my being a carer so long isn't necessarily because they think I'm fantastic at what I do. There are some really good carers who've been told to stop after just two or three years. And I can think of one carer at least who went on for all of fourteen years despite being a complete waste of space. So I'm not trying to boast. But then I do know for a fact they've been pleased with my work, and by and large, I have too. My donors have always tended to do much better than expected. Their recovery times have been impressive, and hardly any of them have been classified as "agitated," even before fourth donation. Okay, maybe I am boasting now. But it means a lot to me, being able to do my work well, especially that bit about my donors staying "calm." I've developed a kind of instinct around donors. I know when to hang around and comfort them, when to leave them to themselves; when to listen to everything they have to say, and when just to shrug and tell them to snap out of it.