The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been occupying my imagination now for some days.
The Remains of the Day is about Stevens, a butler in a “grand old English house”. He spent his life trying to be a “great” butler in the service of Lord Darlington. With the death of Darlington he remains in Darlington Hall working for the new owner a rich American, Mr Farraday. It is at Mr. Farraday’s suggestion that Stevens, our narrator, first begins thinking about taking a short trip out into the English countryside, and to see Miss Kenton. Now Mrs. Benn she recently sent him a letter, hinting, Stevens thinks, at her unhappy marriage and her wish to return to service in Darlington Hall. On his journey Stevens reflects over his life and the changes he has seen.
I really loved this book. It is simple and complicated all at the same time. Easy to read, but there is so much in every sentence.
In many ways you could say that this is a character study. All we get are Stevens’ thoughts and remembrances. His version of events. His spin on his past. And as he is so emotionally repressed it isn’t the easiest to figure out exactly what he thought about events. Did some aspects really bother him, or did he just pretend they did after the fact in order to present a more respectable front. And of course he is looking back, reflecting on these events after the fact. He really is an unreliable narrator of the best sort.
He is the quintessential reserved English butler, one who is fazed by nothing, not even the death of his father. Or at least that is how he would like to be thought of. A man who keeps the dignity of his position despite what might be going on all around him.
No doubt he is arrogant, pompous, and self-promoting. But he also has nothing but his job. It is sad and poignant, but also full of humorous touches. For the reader at any rate. I’m guessing not for our central character.
I’m now debating whether or not to investigate watching the film. I’ve seen bits of it. The scene between Stevens and Miss Kenton regarding what book he was reading is definitely one I remember watching. I’ll give it a few months I think, if I watched it too close to reading the book I’d just be disappointed by comparison.
The author was born in Japan & is a British citizen so this post is tagged under both.