May 28

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day

by Kazuo Ishiguro


First Published in 1989
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Winner of the 1989 Booker Prize

Click here to buy The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (free delivery)

Book Cover Synopsis:

The aging butler of Darlington Hall, Stevens, begins on a rare holiday through the English countryside and deep into his past.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s contemporary classic is haunting and beautiful. A tale of life between the two world wars in a grand English house, of the way we choose to live our lives, and the love we may have lost because of our choices.

My Book Review:

I feel I have to justify giving a Booker Prize winner: (2.5/5). These book reviews are according to my taste, and sometimes ‘great literature’ and prize winners are just not to everyone’s liking. I appreciated this novel for what it is, but personally, I prefer a bit more movement and action to my novels. The content of coming to the end of ones career and looking back at what might have been, or different choices one could or should have made definitely has its place, and maybe I’m just not at that stage in my life to really appreciate that. But it has got me thinking.

This book was not what I expected. I’m not sure what I expected but I guess my expectation was formed when the author Andrea Levy called it something to the effect of ‘a close to perfect novel’. Indeed, the perspective of an ageing butler of a once important household, who has devoted his entire adult life to serving,  now given the opportunity to reflect on his life, is interesting. The character of Stevens is well formed, flawed, and set in his ways. The ‘stiff upper lip’ butler has led his life, with the personal so enmeshed with his career, with dignity, decorum and pride in his duty.

The voice of Stevens that Ishiguro creates is extremely authentic. Written in the first person, Steven’s thoughts and desires are suggested, but almost never spelt out, in keeping with his character. I enjoyed the romanticism of seeing a large Lord’s household, with back passages, servants quarters and dining halls.

What I found particularly interesting was the historical implications of Steven’s flashbacks to before World War II. Steven’s employer, Lord Darlington, is trying to orchestrate better ties between Britain and Germany, ties with a certain Herr Hitler. Stevens is warned of the danger and potential mistake that Lord Darlington is making, but Steven’s code is not to interfere. Stevens maintains a lack of curiosity and personal opinion on his employer’s dealings. Yet, Stevens feels a great sense of pride in belonging to a house where important decisions are made and enjoys the feeling that he has indirectly influenced great matters of international importance. An amusing instance was when he felt a great sense of achievement upon changing a valued guest’s foul mood before a big meeting because of the shininess of the silver. This part of the plot got me thinking that its human nature to want to be part of important matters, no matter now thin the connection or sometimes how dubious the circumstances.

The Remains of the Day is quiet, reflective and at times amusing. We, the readers, see Stevens inner life and flaws . Flaws that he himself may not recognise. I wanted him to break out of his shell, to say and do what he truly feels, but I also realised there is a certain charm and lesson to be learnt from Steven’s idea of ‘dignity’.

Although I didn’t completely appreciate this novel, I finished it, which I never do with books that don’t hold my attention. So there’s something to be said for that. I am an impatient being, and prefer more drama and suspense in my reading. I think Kazuo Ishiguro is a really good writer and I really enjoyed his 2005 novel Never Let Me Go. You should read that book.

x Julie

Book Reviews – Reading Like Rabbits

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