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The Remains of the Day

Ishiguro, Kazuo (Book - 1993 )
Average Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
The Remains of the Day
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The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him -- oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel -- namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.
Authors: Ishiguro, Kazuo, 1954-
Title: The remains of the day
Publisher: New York : Vintage International, 1993, c1988
Edition: Vintage international ed
Characteristics: 245 p. ;,21 cm
Statement of Responsibility: Kazuo Ishiguro
Notes: "Winner of the Booker Prize."--Cover
Summary: The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him -- oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel -- namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.
ISBN: 0679731725
9780679731726
Branch Call Number: FICTION ISHIGURO 1993
Subject Headings: Butlers England Fiction Upper class England Fiction England Social life and customs 20th century Fiction
Topical Term: Butlers
Upper class
LCCN: 90050177
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May 02, 2014
  • rationallady rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is a short book, but well worth reading. I don't usually read a book after seeing the movie, but I was glad I did this time. Now I'm going to see the movie again. I identified with the butler who gave up his personal happiness to do his duty.

Nov 12, 2013
  • Sailingsam rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One of my most favorite novels..so emotionally moving.

Oct 16, 2013
  • alpaca85 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

The Remains of the Day is perhaps of the most subtly heartbreaking works ever put to the page. It concerns a romance that never came to be and a man who never truly lived, and who finds himself in the remains of his life questioning exactly what he had devoted his entire life to. It concerns a butler named Stevens, who recounts his whole life’s experiences on a road trip to visit a friend. He served the grand Darlington Hall for multiple decades, from the early 1920’s to the novel’s present in the 1950’s. His employer was a person whom he calls a great man, Lord Darlington. Though at present he is employed by an American gentleman by the name of Farraday, Stevens recounts his experiences with great nostalgia towards Lord Darlington and the “good old days”.
Yet Stevens is a man in denial, and Kazuo Ishiguro is a master at revealing Stevens’ quiet, internal struggle. Throughout the carefully mannered prose, we begin to learn of Stevens’ relationship with a housekeeper named Miss Kenton. The story is told from Stevens’ point of view, and he always seems to recount his experiences with upmost grace and composure. Yet, around halfway through the novel, little pieces of truth begin to trickle in from Stevens’ romanticized point of view. We begin to learn that there is perhaps more to his relationship with Miss Kenton and of Lord Darlington’s Nazi sympathies.
And yet Ishiguro manages to keep us guessing until the end, and when the story does end, it does so in a very heart wrenching way. Take Lord Darlington for example. He is portrayed by Stevens as a great gentleman; the best of Britain’s best. Yet, as the story itself progresses the rose coloured filters that Stevens revels in begin to slip away. We start to see Lord Darlington for how he was, and that Stevens’ “great gentleman” was nothing of the sort.
It is as well with great dignity that the relationship between Stevens and Miss Kenton becomes one of painfully obvious remorse and missed opportunity, something that becomes increasingly present in the final chapter. Though it has been a while, I did see the film version of The Remains of the Day, and I must say that both the novel and the film are truly excellent. In the film, from what I recall, the story is told extremely faithfully and with great composure, such that rivals the prose of the novel. Indeed, having read both We Were Orphans and Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro, I am slightly familiar with his style. And while many of his core themes are in place, the actual words are astonishingly different from his traditionally blank prose. He writes the carefully mannered persona of Stevens to a tee. Indeed, his writing is so good that if you had told me that the novel had been written by an actual butler, I may have believed you.
Yet, just as in Never Let Me Go the themes of repression, both socially and personally, are present. Just as Cathy in Never Let Me Go faces her misspent life with dignity, Stevens faces his with dignity and a bit of foolishness. He is so involved in his own insular world, one which he created for himself, that he barely stops and sees exactly what surrounds him. It’s a fascinating character in a fascinating novel.
In the end, The Remains of the Day is an amazing piece of literature, and one that deserves to be read and read again. It ranks among some of the best, and cements Ishiguro’s status as my favourite author.

Apr 15, 2013
  • akarenina rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A superb book in every way: tone, characterization, structure and mood

Dec 14, 2012
  • VirginiaRego rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Another required read for my education doctoral program, and enjoyed the story plus the themes that we discussed during a snowy week-end at UBC. The movie, while different in places, is equally good.

Mar 07, 2012
  • mtri rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Beautifully written; one of my favourite books. I read this annually and truly empathize with the butler's sense of 'duty'.

Oct 01, 2011
  • vcc rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Winner of Britain's Booker Prize, this original story brings us into the life of Stephens, an aging butler, who recounts major events that happened in his employer's household during the war years. Punctuated with humour, this story is about life's deeper tragedies. (Feb 2002) I also highly recommend Ishiguro's book, "When We Were Orphans," about British Colonialism in China.

Jan 18, 2011
  • kewmum rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I truly enjoyed reading this book, but wanted to shake him for so ruthlessly putting the requirements of his position before the requirements of himself as an individual. It is like the role has overtaken the person, leaving little room for any other aspects of life. A good warning about priorities

Nov 19, 2010
  • John_M rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book gives what appears to be a realistic and sensitive insite into the mind of a post WW2 butler of upper class Britain. I have no idea how true it is to the period, but I was drawn through the book.

Aug 09, 2010
  • pokano rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This novel, deserving of its Booker Prize, is the story of an English butler who finds out too late what he has lost in life.

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Nov 29, 2013
  • BPTADiscusses rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

You see, I TRUSTED. I trusted in his lordship's wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can't even say I made my own mistakes. Really--one has to ask oneself--what dignity is there in that?

Sep 24, 2010
  • ndp21f rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

The great butlers are by great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost; they will not be shaken out by external events, however surprising, alarming, or vexing. They wear their professionalism as a decent gentleman will wear his suit; he will not let ruffians or circumstance tear it off him n the pubic gaze; he will discard it, when, and only when, he wills to do so, and this will invariably be when he is entirely alone. It is, as I say, a matter of 'dignity'.

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