Sunday, January 13, 2008

BOOK: The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro

1989 Booker Winner, 1980s decade, Man Booker Challenge

I haven't seen the movie, but I would like to now. This quiet book is the memoirs of Stevens, proper butler to Darlington Hall from the 1930s to his present day 1956. Ishiguro has written an amazing book in that this is a character study of the main character, told in first person narrative, and the man has no inner thoughts, a completely flat character. It is completely sad how removed from himself he is without even realizing it. But the book is genius.

Stevens has lived his whole life as a butler and he is very invested in being the best butler, to the point that he has no relationships with anyone - his father, Miss Kenton, or anyone. He doesn't think critically about any decisions of his boss, who, it comes out, was quite the Nazi sympathizer before World War 2.

Later in life, he seems to feel that bantering is a skill he should acquire, as part of his repertoire of a good butler. But bantering doesn't come easily to him. This is typical of his interactions with other people. It is particularly sad when he retells events with Miss Kenton, the housekeeper. He keeps his emotions so bottled up, under the guise of professionalism, that he cannot even offer condolences or talk of anything that is not to do with the job.

Ishiguro offers a view of life in the upper classes in England, and what life may have been like 'on the job'. And he does such a great job of exposing Stevens character without saying anything, especially the parts that Stevens isn't even aware of. Ishiguro is on my list of potential favorite authors now, with two books (Never Let Me Go) that have impressed me.

12 comments:

Jill said...

This is on my list for the Man Booker Challenge too. Can't wait to read it, especially after your glowing review. =)

Jill
http://mrstreme.livejournal.com

raidergirl3 said...

jill - I think you'll like it. Not a lot of action though.

Literary Feline said...

I saw the movie years ago and had no idea it was a book until a couple of years ago. I would like to read this one, I think. I have another of the author's books on my TBR shelf to read and will probably get to that one first. Thanks for the great review!

Bookfool said...

I can't remember, but I think I saw the movie before I read the book. Hmmm. Could have been either way, but I loved both. The movie is wonderful, very subtle and extremely faithful to the book. I highly recommend both. The second Ishiguro book I read was a disappointment: A Pale View of Hills. But, I was so impressed with The Remains of the Day that I can't imagine giving up on him.

raidergirl3 said...

literary feline- Is the book you have Never Let Me Go? I really liked that one.

bookfool - I really must watch the movie. Emma Thompson must be absolutely perfect for the role. I would think the part was written for her; I heard her the whole time I was reading the book. As I said to Wendy, I loved his Never Let Me Go.

Literary Feline said...

Yes, that's it! I'm looking forward to reading it.

Trish said...

I have to admit that I've been putting off this book for a while, but I keep hearing good things (maybe I saw the movie a long time ago and it bored me??). I'll be reading this later for The Book Awards Reading Challenge--so thanks for the encouraging review!

raidergirl3 said...

trish - it is a very quiet book, and I can see that at different times in my life, it could be too quiet, but I let myself enjoy the language, and think about what wasn't being said, and how sad the butler was, even if he didn't realize it.

Jeane said...

It sounds like a rather depressing book...

raidergirl3 said...

jeane - it is quite sad, because the butler never really lived, and didn't even realize he didn't. It wasn't a sobber, just quietly sad.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I read this book many years ago, and I absolutely loved it, though it is quite sad. They did a wonderful job with the film, too. I hope you enjoy the movie!

Rach said...

I studied the book for A Levels, and the film just doesn't convey the emotion on the book