Ishiguro's 'The Remains of the Day' is essentially a story of regret and is very much a character-based novel. Stevens, a stiff-upper-lipped, mask-faced, duty-bound butler served Lord Darlington of Darlington Hall between WW1 and WW2. After the death of Darlington, the property passed into the hands of a rich American. Times were changing, indeed!. Now, in his older years, Stevens reflects on his life. One of his contemplations sees him visiting, Miss Kenton, a housekeeper he previously worked with and grew to care for. During the journey and his visit, readers are slowly exposed to the unpacking of snippets of information that portray Stevens' character and life choices. These small pieces gather to reveal major issues and fallibilities. On the surface, Stevens' tied-up efforts to express his feelings to Miss Kenton seem amusing, but instead they're chokingly sad. Does it sound dry and uninteresting? Actually, it's not! The Remains of the Day is a Booker Prize winner, so that has to carry some merit. In my opinion, the book is brilliantly written and has all the other elements of good writing present, too (including, plot, character development, pacing and imagery). Ishiguro's subtle writing style and choice of themes may not be for everyone (he tends to write in a beautiful, poignant, but careful style that focuses on people's weaknesses and failures rather than their successes). However, he is a master story-teller which, for me, is the attraction.
Who’d have ever thought that one could get so lost in the ramblings and memories of a stubborn old butler? What a beautiful story. And with so many morals to heed in our own lives. Stevens is an endearing loyal butler to Lord Darlington and lives his life abiding by strict and unwavering morals and values...especially the personal trait he values more than any other...true dignity, which he carries out with the utmost importance. While his staunchness is something for others to behold and admire...he finds it ultimately costs him dearly in some facets of his life. Some of Stevens’ thoughts and some passages in this book made me feel quite emotional and had me thinking back and reminiscing these days,about long forgotten manners,loyalty, respect ....and indeed dignity. A wonderful book.
I was under the impression that this was a romance and it is, in it's own way but it is so much more. It's an easy read, not always a comfortable read, the characters do make you squirm at times, and it leaves you thinking when the book is done. It is a character study, a history lesson, a travel guide and a romance all rolled into one. Deserving of it's status as a modern classic.
The sense of control and reservation throughout the book prepares us for an unhappy denouement. However, the character is so clearly flawed that we, in our perfect understanding, forgive him for not seeing through the fog of duty nor for taking courage to truly take part in life. The author has taken all our faults and used a magnifying glass to highlight them in a most restrained and dignified story. I enjoyed the journey of superior judgement.
This story could easily have been true of many , particularly the stoic English, who lived through the two world wars under the illusion that the aristocracy were born to rule and that the general public were lesser than them. The gamut of emotions that it illicits leaves me feeling bereft now that have completed reading. Everthing from anger to compassion, from nostalgia to delight .
Despite starting slow and not really pick up any pace, I couldn't put this novel down. Beautifully written and tantalisingly crafted, the author gives you snippets of the story. The melancholy ending works well but don't expect fast-paced action or adventure.
I loved the sheer Englishness of the butler - his British reserve and the way he is reflecting on his life to date. There is deep poignancy in the unacknowleged feeling and unexpressed emotions. A philosophical wonderment.