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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
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The Remains of the Day (1989)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,378232315 (4.19)1 / 835
  1. 50
    An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (bibliobibuli, browner56)
    browner56: The consequences of misguided devotion treated from both the British and Japanese perspectives.
  2. 40
    Persuasion by Jane Austen (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: Slow, languid stories about regret and life choices not understood until they've passed by.
  3. 30
    What the Butler Saw: Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the Servant Problem by E. S. Turner (thorold)
    thorold: It's fascinating to put these two classic studies of the relationship between the English upper classes and their domestic servants side-by-side: one a delicate psychological novel, the other a gossipy work of social history.
  4. 30
    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (foggidawn)
  5. 21
    The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (WSB7)
    WSB7: Both have the feeling of restraint/seil-restraint foregrounded.
  6. 10
    A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin (Othemts)
  7. 10
    The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (mrstreme)
  8. 10
    The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (CGlanovsky)
  9. 11
    Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Two inhibited, unreliable narrators
  10. 11
    When She Was Good by Philip Roth (cometahalley)
  11. 00
    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (CGlanovsky)
  12. 01
    Deceits of Time by Isabel Colegate (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books discover Nazi affiliations in the past in prominent statesmen.
  13. 13
    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (slickdpdx)
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English (214)  German (3)  Spanish (3)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Finnish (2)  French (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (230)
Showing 1-5 of 214 (next | show all)
It took me until page 46 to really get into the book. I started and stopped the book a number of times until he really got started on his trip. Then I was hooked. Stevens's unexpected opportunity to travel gives him the time to rethink his life as a buttler, coming to the conclusion that he was probably not the great buttler he thought himself as. Much of the book is spent reexamining his relationship with Miss Kenton with whom he had a numerous differences of opinion. It's also a study at class, ethnicity and culture, specifically the encroachment of outsiders (neuveau riche Americans) on the well ordered English lifestyle. ( )
  pussreboots | Oct 10, 2014 |
This is literary fiction. This is writing.

The prose is beautiful in this book.

You would think that it would get boring with digressions about one's dignity or the state of the nation or inserts about silverware, but no. Everything in this book is impeccably placed, like a butler carefully polishing his silverware for display.

The Remains of the Day is about a butler who tells his life story as he goes on a trip to see an old friend.

But it's not. It's a stream-of-consciousness. It's memories woven into one story. It's lost love and opportunities missed. It's history and politics of the world wars. It's philosophy and one's purpose in life and what it means to be a professional, what it means to follow or call someone master. It is a tale of lost morals in the present world. It is about love. It is about love for your profession, for your father, for a woman. It's a tale about what is left in one's life.

I don't even know where to begin, really.

How can I explain the beauty of that story about his father? Ishiguro gives away the punch line at the beginning of the story: whereupon he watched his father pacing at the stairs "as though he hoped to find some precious jewel he had dropped there". We read it with little feelings or emotions, we simply accept that statement as it is. And then he tells us the story. And when he repeats that sentence, my heart clenches and I am uncertain if I am feeling the unspeakable tragedy of watching this sight, or empathy and sorrow.

This entire story is like that. It is so easy to say in one line what this story is about. Quite frankly, the plot of this story is entirely given to us in the first few pages. But in the exploration of what those few sentences mean - there. There, that is where everything comes alive.

It is rare that one can love a character who seems to express so little. It is rare to love a character who is so profoundly in his own mind. Generally I wrinkle my nose at those characters and call them boring or self-centered or socially impaired.
But it isn't the case with Mr. Steven. Perhaps it is not in spite, but because, of his emotional reticence that I feel so deeply for him. Or that when he does show emotion, it is a thousand times stronger.
Just imagine that scene in which he simply turns his head at a strange angle from Ms. Kenton's approach!
That simple action made me breathless from anticipation. Not a single word, but you can feel it. That discomfort, that hyper-awareness of another person, the invasion of one's person space. It is all there in such a simple scene.

There is such depth in this book, I cannot even cover it all. How can I cover everything? I want to speak about the philosophy and what it means to have dignity (or if it is worth it, to put it above human relationships). Or of morality and if honor is dead. Or the idea that following one's master is noble, even if he is going down the wrong path.

I have not spoken about history, of how Ishiguro weaves it into his story so seamlessly. Or the culture that gleams from each scene. A British type of stiff-upper-lip feel, but marked with such pondering of life.

I have never believed that one book could dare to claim it could cover one person's life. How could it, with the multitude of emotions and memories and important factors that make up who a person is? But after reading this book, I cannot feel anything but convinced that I know Mr Stevens. That who is he is written down in ink, his memories, his regrets, the values in which he surrounds his life, his loves.

Five stars. This is simply beauty. ( )
2 vote NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
This is literary fiction. This is writing.

The prose is beautiful in this book.

You would think that it would get boring with digressions about one's dignity or the state of the nation or inserts about silverware, but no. Everything in this book is impeccably placed, like a butler carefully polishing his silverware for display.

The Remains of the Day is about a butler who tells his life story as he goes on a trip to see an old friend.

But it's not. It's a stream-of-consciousness. It's memories woven into one story. It's lost love and opportunities missed. It's history and politics of the world wars. It's philosophy and one's purpose in life and what it means to be a professional, what it means to follow or call someone master. It is a tale of lost morals in the present world. It is about love. It is about love for your profession, for your father, for a woman. It's a tale about what is left in one's life.

I don't even know where to begin, really.

How can I explain the beauty of that story about his father? Ishiguro gives away the punch line at the beginning of the story: whereupon he watched his father pacing at the stairs "as though he hoped to find some precious jewel he had dropped there". We read it with little feelings or emotions, we simply accept that statement as it is. And then he tells us the story. And when he repeats that sentence, my heart clenches and I am uncertain if I am feeling the unspeakable tragedy of watching this sight, or empathy and sorrow.

This entire story is like that. It is so easy to say in one line what this story is about. Quite frankly, the plot of this story is entirely given to us in the first few pages. But in the exploration of what those few sentences mean - there. There, that is where everything comes alive.

It is rare that one can love a character who seems to express so little. It is rare to love a character who is so profoundly in his own mind. Generally I wrinkle my nose at those characters and call them boring or self-centered or socially impaired.
But it isn't the case with Mr. Steven. Perhaps it is not in spite, but because, of his emotional reticence that I feel so deeply for him. Or that when he does show emotion, it is a thousand times stronger.
Just imagine that scene in which he simply turns his head at a strange angle from Ms. Kenton's approach!
That simple action made me breathless from anticipation. Not a single word, but you can feel it. That discomfort, that hyper-awareness of another person, the invasion of one's person space. It is all there in such a simple scene.

There is such depth in this book, I cannot even cover it all. How can I cover everything? I want to speak about the philosophy and what it means to have dignity (or if it is worth it, to put it above human relationships). Or of morality and if honor is dead. Or the idea that following one's master is noble, even if he is going down the wrong path.

I have not spoken about history, of how Ishiguro weaves it into his story so seamlessly. Or the culture that gleams from each scene. A British type of stiff-upper-lip feel, but marked with such pondering of life.

I have never believed that one book could dare to claim it could cover one person's life. How could it, with the multitude of emotions and memories and important factors that make up who a person is? But after reading this book, I cannot feel anything but convinced that I know Mr Stevens. That who is he is written down in ink, his memories, his regrets, the values in which he surrounds his life, his loves.

Five stars. This is simply beauty. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
It took me a long time to get into this book, and even longer to realize that I was enjoying it. It's very different in that you cannot really identify with the main character until (for me at least) the very last few pages. The whole book is a slow reveal, not just of the events which are being recounted, but of the very character of the man recounting them. It is a bit slow, and some of the anecdotes drag on, but it's not a long book, and it's well worth the read if you're looking for something different. ( )
  Tess_Elizabeth | Aug 30, 2014 |
Stevens is a dignified butler who has been given some well deserved time off from his American employer, Mr. Farraday. Mr. Farraday has also given Stevens the use of his vehicle (including fuel), urging Stevens to take a road trip. But, Remains of the Day isn't really about the vacation of Stevens, but rather the memory lane Stevens end up traveling down. On his driving tour Stevens thinks back over his years as a butler first with Lord Darlington and then with Mr. Farraday after Farraday purchases Darlington Hall and its contents, including the servants ("the whole experience" as he says). Heavy on Stevens's mind is his he spent working with housekeeper Miss Kenton and his strained relationship with his now deceased father. All three were employed together with Lord Darlington. I have to admit, as an emotional person, the passing of Stevens's father and how Stevens reacts was somewhat disturbing. If you read the book, pay attention to when Stevens tells a guest the doctor has been called. The guest thinks Stevens has called the doctor for his ailing feet (for he had just asked Stevens for bandages) and Stevens lets him think as much even though his father has just died, the real reason for the call.
Remains of the Day is more flashbacks than present day story. Stevens takes you on a journey to discover what it means to have dignity. He reveals a world where being proper is more important than having sentiment. He explores the meaning of loyalty not only to an employer, but to oneself. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Aug 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 214 (next | show all)
We can work out the date of Stevens's expedition ... Ominous dates. ... the Suez crisis dominated British current affairs. ... Stevens is not returning to a golden evening ... there are no remains -- except in the sense of `corpse'.
added by KayCliff | editWhere was Rebecca shot?, John Sutherland (Mar 5, 1998)
 
The Remains of the Day is too much a roman à thèse, and a judgmental one besides. Compared to his astounding narrative sophistication, Ishiguro's message seems quite banal: Be less Japanese, less bent on dignity, less false to yourself and others, less restrained and controlled. The irony is that it is precisely Ishiguro's beautiful restraint and control that one admires, and, in the case of the last novel [The Remains of the Day], his nerve in setting up such a high-wire act for himself.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Gabriele Annan (pay site) (Dec 7, 1989)
 
Kazuo Ishiguro's tonal control of Stevens' repressive yet continually reverberating first-person voice is dazzling. So is his ability to present the butler from every point on the compass: with affectionate humor, tart irony, criticism, compassion and full understanding. It is remarkable, too, that as we read along in this strikingly original novel, we continue to think not only about the old butler, but about his country, its politics and its culture.
 

» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ishiguro, Kazuoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kriek, BarthoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rybicki, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stiehl, HermannTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
In memory of Mrs Lenore Marshall.
First words
It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days.
Quotations
The English landscape at its finest—such as I saw this morning—possesses a quality that the landscapes of other nations, however more superficially dramatic, inevitably fail to possess. It is, I believe, a quality that will mark out the English landscape to any objective observer as the most deeply satisfying in the world, and this quality is probably best summed up by the term 'greatness.' And yet what precisely is this greatness? I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A butler looks back over his career at a fine English country house while on a trip to visit a former colleague.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679731725, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:37 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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.… (more)

» see all 14 descriptions

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