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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
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The Remains of the Day (original 1989; edition 1990)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,542291270 (4.19)1 / 1077
Member:narrowridge
Title:The Remains of the Day
Authors:Kazuo Ishiguro
Info:Vintage (1990), Edition: Mti Rep, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

  1. 60
    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
    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (foggidawn)
  4. 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.
  5. 10
    The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (mrstreme)
  6. 21
    The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (WSB7)
    WSB7: Both have the feeling of restraint/seil-restraint foregrounded.
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  10. 11
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    KayCliff: Two inhibited, unreliable narrators
  11. 01
    Deceits of Time by Isabel Colegate (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books discover Nazi affiliations in the past in prominent statesmen.
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English (273)  Italian (3)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (3)  German (3)  French (2)  Finnish (2)  Hebrew (1)  All (290)
Showing 1-5 of 273 (next | show all)
Lots of big issues related to both life, society and politics taken up through a seemingly simple portrait of a butler, his bosses, and his staff. ( )
  nltrapp | Feb 20, 2017 |
It has already been said that Ishiguro’s novel is a beautiful study of Englishness. The book for me, like all of Ishiguro’s works I have read, is extremely soothing to read. Somehow, Ishiguro has a way with words that not only calms, but also excites the reader. The book spans not only six days of Mr Stevens’ travels, but also Mr Stevens’ life as a butler. With many monologues from Mr Stevens’ himself, the reader is made privy to his thoughts and repressions (even if these repressions are barely whispered throughout the book).

I felt that Mr Stevens’ notions of dignity – what it is, who has it, how to get it – spoke not just of problems in Englishness, but I would also argue that they spoke of problems in humanity. Mr Stevens says that no matter what is going on around you, you should never take off your “suit”. His meaning being that you should always maintain an air of professionalism, even when off duty. Throughout the book, Mr Stevens conceals most of his emotions and inner thoughts to the reader, and it is only through slips or allusions that one begins to see what Mr Stevens might be besides a butler. His service to Lord Darlington and to the house in unwavering. This kind of loyalty, Stevens argues, is one of choice: pick someone you like and stick to them like glue. Making no decisions for oneself is, I believe, the cowardly way to go about life. It is also something that you see Mr Stevens struggle with throughout the book. Befehl ist Befehl is a famous phrase from World War II used by many German soldiers who explained and justified their actions: orders are orders, is the translation. Mr Stevens lived in this manner as well, and it is only as an aging man that he might regret such rigid loyalty.

Mr Stevens seems to become whatever the people around him want him to be. When he is called upon by Lord Darlingtons’ guests to answer complex political questions, Mr Stevens remarks that he knows they want him to play dumb, so he does just that. Similarly, when he is in the small village and is mistaken for a Lord, he goes along with the farce. He says that he did not have time to correct the people before it went on for too long, but one would argue that he was fulfilling the role of Lord simply to please the people around him.

The biggest issue with people pleasers, like Mr Stevens, is that they never seem to quite get what they want. Indeed, the end of the book reveals that when he is presented with the opportunity to tell his love, Miss Kenton, how he really feels, he doesn’t. His reasons behind this silence, is because he thinks that Miss Kenton would not like him to tell her how he feels because it would ruin her marriage and her twilight years with her grandchildren. Mr Stevens presumes he can read minds and that he knows what is best for the people around him. Whether this is true for every case is questionable, but the important thing to remember is that in times he is wrong, it result in Mr Stevens suffering a great loss.

Ishiguro’s novel is a great study into the human character and it is very nostalgic and grey, much like how I imagine and remember the English countryside. As always, I find Ishiguro’s writing to be very soothing and easy to read. As always, it is a pleasure to read his novels. ( )
  bound2books | Feb 12, 2017 |
"In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealized love between the butler and his housekeeper." ( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
A charming, subtle story of a starched English butler, told in first person, about his time working for a great gentleman in a a large house. The house is often full of high society guests before the war and boasts a large staff. Humor and heartbreak weave through the story. The voice of the butler is brilliantly written.

After the war, things change and the house is purchased by an agreeable American. The butler, Stevens, is loaned a car by his employer to facilitate a week's trip to the west country. Along the way, Stevens experiences new people and situations. Arriving at his destination, he spends time talking to one of the ladies who used to be on the staff of the great house where Stevens still works.

This book has the bones of a modern classic. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
I liked this book, and I read it fairly quickly, but I can't help feeling a bit disappointed. Normally I'm perfectly fine with a book in which very little happens, yet that is then only tolerable because the characters' behavior, or psychology, is fascinating to read about. I therefore liked John Williams' Stoner, a similar "quiet" novel, with a main character remarkable in his own, dignified way.

Yet in Remains of the Day, Mr. Stevens was to me both frustrating and perhaps somewhat narrow-minded, or unimaginative, however dignified (this word comes up so often in the book it's sneaked into my own vocabulary) and well-meaning, and his journey, which in my opinion felt rather rushed, only there to set a proper stage for his reminiscences, was uneventful (which makes sense, I guess), and somehow even rarely mentioned, as if the author sometimes forgot about it himself. I would've liked more English country traveling and a bit less of Stevens' thought patterns.

What made me read on when it became tedious was Lord Darlington's life seen throughout the years, the grand meeting on Germany's reparation payments, Miss Kenton's relationship with Mr. Stevens, and the gradual decline of Stevens' father. Ishiguro is great at vividly rendering a scene and its atmosphere of tension or calm, and the parts I mentioned where the ones where I forgot, as one does with great novels, that I was reading a book.

The book, then, was certainly captivating at various points throughout, and this review might have been more positive (I did like this book, mind you; had the emphasis been on different aspects, aspects that I liked, I might have even praised it as a whole) had it not been for the endless, repetitive thoughts of Mr. Stevens. When his spells of remembering became a story, the novel was enjoyable, yet when the butler went over the same thought again and again, somehow unable to escape his overly simple reasoning, I read noticeably faster, as if trying to re-create the wind forward option of a TV remote, looking for the good parts that surely were there, but sadly not frequently enough.
  bartt95 | Jan 15, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 273 (next | show all)
Just below the understatement of the novel’s surface is a turbulence as immense as it is slow; for The Remains of the Day is in fact a brilliant subversion of the fictional modes from which it seems at first to descend.
 
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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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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Book description
A butler looks back over his career at a fine English country house while on a trip to visit a former colleague.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:36 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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