The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro / ★★★★★
Summary: At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving “a great gentleman.” But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s “greatness” and graver doubts about his own faith in the man he served.
What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.
While I absolutely loved Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and fully expected to enjoy this book, The Remains of the Day still came as somewhat of a surprise with me. The first thirty pages of this book took me an entire month to get through- I just couldn’t grasp all the talk of butlering. The life of our narrator, Mr. Stevens, revolves entirely around being a butler in the home of an old English Lord. He tries to be one of dignity and to simply be the best of the best. When I finally sat down and told myself to finish the book- the characters grasped me and story really began, and I couldn’t put it down.
It’s incredible how well Ishiguro is at telling a story explicitly through what is not said, and at evoking emotion where none is stated. Throughout this book Stevens recounts his time as a butler for the infamous Lord Darlington, alternating between past and present. Because of this, we have a vague idea of how things are going to play out, yet it didn’t make the end, or the events leading up to it, any less heartbreaking. I love how well Ishiguro writes an unreliable narrator. Stevens is very biased- but more than that, he’s seeking to reassure himself that his years of service were not wasted, and that the choices he made were not wrong. I loved how Ishiguro could write one thing, yet we as the reader can see it means the exact opposite- and it was heartbreaking to read.
This book is relatively short, only just over 250 pages, but so much is packed inside- a man’s journey of self-awareness, social and historical commentary, and a love story. I love Ishiguro’s writing, and even though this book had a tough start, I absolutely loved it, and can’t wait to read more of Ishiguro’s books in the future.
TL;DR review in 5 thoughts: A little slow. SO MUCH BUTLERING. Wait…these characters are really interesting. WAIT…is this a love story. Why did things have to be go way?? 😦