The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Published 1989, Read November 2016
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (of 5)
“The evening’s the best part of the day.”
I’ve never read a book where what is not said is so present, and perhaps, more important than what is said. Told entirely from the perspective of Mr. Stevens, the lifelong butler at Darlington, The Remains of the Day is a subtle, obscured novel of one life of service. In this short book, Ishiguro managed to tackle themes as broad and towering as the definition of dignity and the meaning of loyalty and service, and yet the narrator, first presented as an authority on such subjects, is masterfully revealed as a narrow minded man, stuck very much in a world that no longer exists.
So very little occurs contemporaneously, with much of the “action” happening in Mr. Stevens’ recollections of his many years of service to Lord Darlington, but it is small, seemingly insignificant encounters that trigger our narrator’s dwellings on a life now in upheaval. Lord Darlington, exposed as a Nazi sympathizer and political ally, has died, his name defiled, and his estate now in the hands of an American, Mr. Farraday, along with Mr. Stevens. Mr. Farraday suggests a trip through the countryside for Mr. Stevens, and somewhat reluctantly our butler accepts–at least he can visit Miss Kenton, the former head housekeeper of Darlington.
This was my first time reading The Remains of the Day, or anything my Kazuo Ishiguro. I finished the novel only minutes ago, and cannot fully express how moved I am. Only 30 pages from the end, I expressed out loud my disdain for Mr. Stevens. But then, by the end, I understood. Ishiguro leads you so patiently and gently to his brilliant conclusion, that you’re left feeling as though you’ve just let out a gentle breath, held for too long. I don’t necessarily feel pity for Mr. Stevens, but I am certainly moved by his journey to what remains of his day.