By Laura Rathbone
I'm absolutely fascinated by the character of Kathy. She is written so carefully to capture her humanity and really confuse the reader. As a healthcare worker, by the end of the book i found myself really relating to this person and I could feel her growing as a person within my minds eye.
Who is she?
Kathy is 31 years old and we learn that she is a carer early on in the novel. This immediately strikes up a maternalistic relationship between the reader and Kathy. As a 2022 society, we tend to feel a certain way about carers and I found myself immediately wanting to like her.
In the beginning, I found her narration a bit annoying, moving between memories, interrupting herself, shifting between perspectives as she describes an event from her perspective and from the perspective of others. At times, I noticed the child-like way that she used language, the he-said she-said of it all, but I later felt that this was part of what made her so human, so relatable.
Kathy has been a carer for a long time, and we learn that she has done it for longer than many of the others in the story, even though she is still quite a young woman. As the story unfolds we realise the reason why and that many of her friends have 'completed' which is a synonym for death in the book although, perhaps the most nightmarish part of the book - is the realisation that completion does not mean death in this world. Simply the end of connection with others. The donor remains conscious as their body continues to be harvested beyond their ability to walk around the earth as 'human'. the flesh-sack that holds us up no longer doing that as organs and tissues are removed to sustain the 'real' humans, more deserving humans.
The word 'completed' has metaphysical and religious overtones suggestive of purity as we are on this journey of understanding and questioning, trying to understand what it is to be a good human perhaps?
The irony within this line of thought is evident as we learn that Kathy, whom we have fallen in love with, whom we will to thrive and and live a long happy life with her love, is in fact, a clone. Her purpose is functional. Much like the animals forced into this world through insemination, leading a life of captivity (be it free range at Hailsham or like stock on a shelf alluded to in the book) only to be terminated/completed when their use to humans requires it.
She develops in our mind as an observer of the world around her, curiously contemplating the actions and behaviours of others whilst standing separate somehow. At times, she struggles to understand the system she's in and the feelings she experiences. The theme of sex, intimacy, passion, lust and love develops and she takes us through the timeline of her development which echoes many of our own. Learning about the cultural norms of partnerships and relationships around us, learning about ourselves in those partnerships, exploring touch, sexual connection and the relief of tension that comes with it, to eventually love with Tommy as he awaits his fourth donation and completes.
She wants us to listen to her story.
Kathy brings us on this journey and gifts us the re-experiencing of childhood and teenage experiences. She wants us to listen to her story. She wants us to understand and talks to us directly, as if she is stood right in front of us, baring her vulnerability, sharing with us her shame, her successes, her deepest intimate secrets.
Kathy asks us to consider our own humanity, and her submission to the system throughout the novel raises our concern for her. I want her to rebel, protest, fight back, free herself. But she doesnt. She just "turn[s] back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was [she] was supposed to be". And thus ends the book.
The cycle continues.
The stock is herded on, to continue the cycle. Only to complete when that remains the final valuable function to be extracted from the "poor creatures" as the humans, the legal owners of what we call humanity, watch on and continue to benefit.
I hope you read this book. Because it speaks to our present in so many ways. I'll write about this in my next blog.