“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 just stopped resisting. It had to do with this particular donor I had once, in my third year as a carer; it was his reaction when I mentioned I was from Hailsham.”
This quotation occurs as Kathy is introducing herself in Chapter 1. It establishes her relentless and characteristic impulse to look back on the past, which will guide the rest of the novel. It also establishes the centrality of Hailsham, the school where Kathy grew up with her friends Tommy and Ruth. The memory of Hailsham serves as a touchstone for all of Kathy’s recollections. It is the place where her most important relationships begin, and the source for many of her happiest memories. Noticeably, Kathy is not looking ahead towards the future. Her attempt to hold onto Hailsham defines her life as a carer, as she both revisits the school through her memories and seeks out donors who also attended Hailsham. In this quote, Kathy also affirms that she has tried to stop looking back, and that point when she stops resisting is when one of her donors asks her to share her memories of Hailsham. Realizing that he wishes to forget his own possibly traumatic childhood memories, Kathy recognizes how lucky she was to grow up at Hailsham. The episode shows that Hailsham and Kathy’s desire to remember it are somewhat exceptional.