Title: The Remains of the Day
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Source: Provided by my work as a promotion for this book
Check this book out on Goodreads.
In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. (Source: Goodreads)
Mr. Stevens is taking a trip to visit a former employee of the household where he is the butler. This journey to the country becomes a journey to the past, leading Stevens to contemplate many aspects of his personal and work life which he has previously ignored. The story culminates with the meeting of Stevens and this former employee, Miss Kenton.
I don’t think I’ll go into too much detail with this review, it’ll likely be a mini-review, because I think that personally I can’t say much. I think a near perfect review and summing up of the story comes from Salman Rushdie’s introduction that is included in the edition of the book I have. I do have a few things to say however, most importantly that I loved this book. This is the second book by Ishiguro that I have read and as with the first, Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro captured my attention and riveted me to the end with his skillful writing and the social commentary he weaves throughout.
This book has something of a slow pace, it took me much longer than expected to read it. I wasn’t really put off by the pace, it was relaxing and allowed me to enjoy the book without any sense of urgency or rush. I also found that it gave me more time to contemplate and absorb the things that Stevens is being used to present. Stevens is thinking back on the past and it works to do a few things. The most obvious is this presentation of social change in England surrounding World War II. Stevens as a butler to a Lord is able to see first hand the way in which the war changes how society functions. Beyond this the book also looks at this personal journey for Stevens wherein he deals with his own life – and the ways in which he’s wasted it all. The question of “dignity” – what is it, how does one possess it – comes up throughout the book and you see these many angles about “dignity” and what you feel for Stevens in regard to this changes throughout. Especially as his former employer’s political situation comes into clearer focus. The story, while slow, is powerful and interesting.
Ishiguro’s writing is beautiful, there’s really nothing else to say about it, it’s simply beautiful. His writing is captivating even when not a lot happens. Throughout the book we don’t see much action, but I honestly couldn’t stop reading because I was so captivated by the writing. This book has a undercurrent of emotion that is really powerful without being in your face. I also, personally, really love how Ishiguro is able to capture this sense of England – the butlers and the posh speech – so well, it just comes across to clearly that you are absorbed into this Jeeves-esque character.
I absolutely loved this book, and highly recommend it. Ishiguro is one of the most skilled writers that I know of so I highly recommend you check out any of his books.