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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

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9,038None331 (4.19)1 / 819
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. 40
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    What the Butler Saw: Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the Servant Problem by E. S. Turner (thorold)
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    KayCliff: Two inhibited, unreliable narrators
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English (197)  German (3)  Spanish (3)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Finnish (2)  French (2)  All languages (212)
Showing 1-5 of 197 (next | show all)
I expected this to be an excellent book, and it was. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did, though, which was a happy surprise. Even though the book is written in first person, which gets you about as close to the narrator as possible, Ishiguro is able to show how Stevens' professional dignity cuts him off from life, while also letting that distancing keep his story from being unbearably depressing. Highly recommended, even if, like me, you don't normally read Literature with a capital L. ( )
  Silvernfire | Apr 14, 2014 |
It was actually weird and funny at first. A butler is not someone we often read about. Mr. Stevens actually cares about being the best butler ever and even spent a lot of pages thinking about what a "great" butler is and another several pages on what "dignity" is and another million pages on Ms. Kenton. I did not get this at first but towards the last 50 pages or so it became clear, this is a love story not just romantic love but also love towards your job. A butler's life is not easy nor is it happy. He's like a priest. He continually thinking about his employer's happiness but never his own. I don't think I would be a good butler nor a good housekeeper. Kudos to Mr. Stevens. I do hope he would enjoy the remains of his days. ( )
  krizia_lazaro | Mar 17, 2014 |
Stevens is a butler. Exactly the kind you picture when someone says the word "butler" - stiff, immaculately dressed, ready when you need anything and all but invisible when you don't. He's spent most of his professional life serving Lord Darlington, but now Lord Darlington is dead and an American has purchased Darlington Hall, so Stevens serves him. The story runs on two levels. The top one takes place in the present, when Stevens is on a road trip to see the former Miss Kenton, who was the housekeeper under Lord Darlington. She left service to get married a number of years ago, but Stevens thinks that perhaps she can be persuaded to return since her marriage seems to be in trouble. The other level is made up of Stevens' memories from his years of service. He dwells on certain moments in his past, often saying he doesn't understand why that particular moment sticks in his mind so much.

It's just one way we see that Stevens is quite disconnected from any idea of his own motivations or feelings. Every major event in his life has been a non-event to him because he was always convinced he was most needed in service to Lord Darlington, so he never stopped to think that perhaps his own life might benefit from his attention. Although the theme of missed opportunities was definitely evident throughout the book, I found myself most intrigued by the discussion of one's place as a servant. Lord Darlington's reputation ended up being quite tarnished by the end of his life; what did it mean if Stevens had devoted his own life to a man of questionable judgment? I was put in mind of the "following orders" line of defense for soldiers - if your entire job is to follow orders, at what point should you question those orders, or exercise your own judgment and refuse or desert? And whatever decisions you make, how do you view them in hindsight?

It is daunting to look back on one's life and realize things probably should have been done differently. Regret can be crippling, if you're not able to view past mistakes as the motivation to change your decisions in the future. The earlier you learn to do that the better off you are, but as with just about everything, better late than never.

Recommended for: thoughtful readers, people who can put up with stuffy exteriors.

Quote: "Indeed, it was not impossible that Miss Kenton, at that very moment, and only a few feet from me, was actually crying. The thought provoked a strange feeling to rise within me, causing me to stand there hovering in the corridor for some moments. But eventually I judged it best to await another opportunity to express my sympathy and went on my way." ( )
1 vote ursula | Feb 24, 2014 |
Subtle and sad. I do wish the ending had been a bit more optimistic. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 4, 2014 |
A true image of 'Englishness' or an outsiders idea of what it means to be English? Nature or nurture?

Stevens is an aging butler who has been in 'service' virtually all of his life and for 35 years worked for Lord Darlington at Darlington Hall. On Lord Darlington's death the Hall is sold onto an American businessman,the kindly Mr Farraday, with no title but Stevens is kept as part of the fixtures and fittings. Stevens has hardly left Darlington Hall all his life so when his new employer decides to take a business trip back to America he suggests Stevens takes a trip himself. After much thought Stevens decides to make a six day trip to visit Miss Kenton, a former housekeeper at the Hall so setting off a period of reflection and introspection.

It soon becomes clear that Stevens has always loved Miss Kenton but, despite several opportunities to do so, has never been able to give vent to his true feelings. It also becomes clear that Stevens has used 'duty' as a defence as well as an excuse against the vagaries of the outside world so despite his age is immature and naive to life outside his ordered centre of influence.So the book becomes a tale of missed opportunities and mis-communication but also of loyalty,true or misplaced, duty and the decline of English aristocracy in the 1950's. An interesting juxtaposition to Stevens own troubles is the meetings held by Lord Darlington between British politicians and the German ambassador to Britain in the run up to WWII. Darlington fought in WWI and believes in fair play and honour towards beaten foes after that first conflict but as he attempts to ease the harsh restrictions placed on the German Government after that conflict, he is then becomes seen by many in his own country as appeasing the Nazis.

Now I must admit that I initially struggled to get into this book,I found the language stilted and staid and wanted to grab Stevens by the neck and shake some backbone into the man and at the same kick Miss Kenton up the behind but I persevered and I'm glad that I did. I finally warmed to Stevens in particular as he struggled as the world that he knew crumbled around him. A man who looked back on his past not with anger but with mere acceptance.

Going back to the questions at the top of this review,many other reviewers seem to think that it took a veritable outsider,at least someone not born English,to be able to see what being English, with it's stiff upper lip and an inability to show and communicate real emotion,really meant but personally I'm not so sure. Whilst,yes I do recognize some of these traits I also feel that they are simplistic and fulfill outsiders stereotypical image of the English. After all Stevens' own father was also a butler so the younger man knew no other way of life,nature or nurture? You read it for yourself and decide. ( )
1 vote PilgrimJess | Jan 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 197 (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
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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.
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)

(summary from another edition)

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