The Hailsham students have initials rather than surnames, which suggests mystery and anonymity. It also recalls writers, particularly those from the nineteenth century, who have used this device to hide the identity of actual locations and people. One later writer who is particularly well known for this is Franz Kafka, who gave the main character in his novel 1925 The Trial the name Joseph K. This novel deals with Joseph’s arrest and trial for an offence that is never explained to him. Ishiguro’s use of this device can therefore be taken as a hint that there may be information that is withheld from the students, or from readers.
The practice of transplanting organs and body parts has a lengthy pre-history; this picture, which dates from the sixteenth century shows a donor leg being attached to a patient by two third century saints, Cosmas and Damian. However, it was not until the twentieth century that organ donation moved from the preserve of miracle workers to the realm of scientific possibility. The first successful organ transplant, of a kidney, was carried out by Joseph Murray in 1954, and in 1967 Christiaan Barnard achieved the milestone of a successful heart transplant.
Hailsham is a town in East Sussex. It is unclear whether this is the inspiration or intended setting for the school in Never Let Me Go. However, its credentials as an historic English market town means that its name contributes to the traditional Englishness that permeates the novel.
Despite its universal themes, Never Let Me Go is very much a novel of England. There are frequent allusions to the English counties that the students have been taught about at Hailsham, of which this reference to the southwest county of Dorset is just one.
Worcestershire is another English county, close to the Welsh border. Between 1974 and 1998 it was amalgamated with its neighbour Herefordshire into the county of Hereford and Worcester. This suggest either that Never Let Me Go is set at the very end of the 1990s, or that Kathy knows the county by its more traditional name.