The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Posted March 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroTitle: The Remains of the Day (Goodreads)
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published: Faber & Faber, 1986
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

England 1956, Stevens is a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall who decides to take a motoring trip through the country. Partly for work and partly for personal reasons, but this six day outing becomes a trip into the past as he remembers not only two world wars but an unrealised love between himself and his housekeeper. The Remains of the Day is an incredible novel of meditation, a changing England and missed love.

Stevens is an old fashion butler, always keeping to the rules and holding himself to a higher standard particularly when it comes to dignity. Throughout the novel he reflects on what it takes to be a truly accomplished butler; often referring to the Hayes Society, an elite society of butlers in the 1920s and 1930. The notion of “a dignity in keeping with his position” being the main ingredient to making a truly great butler. As he reflects on the idea of dignity, he also reflects on how he upholds himself as well as the changed world. Lord Darlington has passed away and an American, Mr Farraday is the new owner of Darlington Hall. This means a whole new way of doing things and as Stevens masterfully adjusts to the new way, he notices that he is doing too much as well as lacking in the ability to communicate the way his new employee wishes. Stevens takes his job too seriously so he struggles to be able to banter with his employee in the way Farraday wishes. He agonizes over his need to offer some witty banter and all attempts fail. He fails to realise that it is his delivery that is lacking and yet he keeps on reflecting on this.

The reason I wanted to talk about dignity and banter, is while Stevens’ is such a great character, he spends all his time reflecting on how he can be the best butler to his that he completely misses the opportunity of love. As this novel progresses and Stevens reflects on his time at Darlington Hall you can see a relationship blossom between the housemaid Miss Kenton and himself. The further you read, the more her feelings develop, while he is blissfully ignorant. Stevens does eventually realise but it is far too late.

The Remains of the Day is such a beautiful novel; while it does remind me a little of Downton Abbey (which I adore) this novel has other elements in it which make it worth exploring. It’s a book of loyalty and politics, love and relationships as well as memories and perspective. I don’t think I’ve seen the movie adaptation of this book but I’m struggling to see how it would work in that format. Does anyone know if the movie is worth watching?

I do recommend this book to fans of Downton Abbey, but I also want to recommend it to people looking for a stunningly elegant to read. Kazuo Ishiguro masterfully crafted this book and it paid off, winning the Man Booker Prize as well as Guardian’s “Books You Can’t Live Without” and the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” list as well as a whole lot more. I’m so glad I picked up this book, it was short but it did so much. I would have to add it to a list of essential readings.

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