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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
9,318230320 (4.19)1 / 833
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. 50
    An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (bibliobibuli, browner56)
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English (211)  German (3)  Spanish (3)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Finnish (2)  French (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (227)
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
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 |
A key to the success of any book is to make characters with which the reader can identify. That identification can take on many different aspects – personality, activities, reactions, an almost never-ending list – but the success of almost all fiction (and, actually, for a lot of non-fiction) is rooted in how successfully the author finds and grows those parts of the character that resonate with the reader.

I am not really telling you something you don't know. But I am reminded of this, and bringing up the subject now, because the one thing this novel lacked was any such identification.

Stevens is a butler who has worked in the service of Darlington Hall for 30 years. He is about to embark on a trip through England. That trip serves two purposes – the opportunity to get away and see the country, and the opportunity for him to meet with a favorably-remembered female who worked at the Hall a number of years ago. As Stevens takes his trip, we learn about his years of service, what it means to be an English butler, the role his father played in his becoming the top-notch butler he became, and the cause of the poor reputation Stevens' former employer has suffered.

Stevens is hapless to the point I was occasionally reminded of Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, a resemblance I cannot believe the author meant to convey. In other words, I had so little empathy for the character I saw his antics in the same way I viewed a famous piece of British slapstick.

But therein lies the rub. I believe Ishiguro was going for the slow revelation of a man who devoted his life to a service that no longer had meaning. I believe the intent was for us to feel empathy for a man who, probably wrongly, maintained the stiff upper British lip and a misaligned allegiance. I believe Ishiguro planned to lay out a life that was one any of us might feel that, given the same circumstances, we could find ourselves trapped in.

Instead there is slapstick, embarrassment, and boredom.

Ishiguro is trying to make touch points between the character's and the readers' lives, but they fall flat and ring untrue. We have all gone on fool's errands in the name of love. Yet, Stevens' errand is so foolish as to be unbelievable. We have all set off on journeys where we found ourselves dwelling on the past more than the journey itself. Yet, Stevens' remembrances only serve to make him seem more hapless and less in touch with any kind of reality. We have all stuck to our allegiances and beliefs in spite of the world changing around us. Yet, Stevens' refusal to see what is going on around him just makes him out of touch and an embarrassing person to be around.

With every line I envisioned Chauncey Gardiner – without the irony, humor, or satire.

The writing is good. In particular, the slow revelation regarding what was occurring in Darlington Hall is handled expertly, only letting out little pieces of information when they work best. But it is immediately hard to empathize with an English butler from the mid-50s, and the way Ishiguro has handled Stevens' actions and thoughts has made him even more foreign.

Which means that the basic necessity of a successful story has been struck dead. We cannot empathize, we cannot sympathize, and we cannot identify. Therefore, we cannot enjoy. ( )
  figre | Aug 19, 2014 |
An amazingly well written and complex story that manages to cover English politics, history, life regrets and more, all told through the eyes of an almost sociopathic, fussy butler, who is an unreliable narrator and doesn't even want to talk about those topics. Wanted to pick it back up and read it again right away. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
An amazingly well written and complex story that manages to cover English politics, history, life regrets and more, all told through the eyes of an almost sociopathic, fussy butler, who is an unreliable narrator and doesn't even want to talk about those topics. Wanted to pick it back up and read it again right away. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 211 (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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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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 14 descriptions

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