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The Remains of the Day (1989)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,796411315 (4.19)1 / 1257
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)
  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. 61
    Persuasion by Jane Austen (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: Slow, languid stories about regret and life choices not understood until they've passed by.
  3. 50
    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (foggidawn)
  4. 40
    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. 20
    A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin (Othemts)
  6. 10
    The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (mrstreme)
  7. 21
    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (CGlanovsky)
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    The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (CGlanovsky)
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    Letters Back to Ancient China by Herbert Rosendorfer (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Nette aus der Welt gefallene Männer erklären die Welt.
  10. 11
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (sturlington)
  11. 11
    Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Two inhibited, unreliable narrators
  12. 11
    The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (WSB7)
    WSB7: Both have the feeling of restraint/seil-restraint foregrounded.
  13. 01
    Deceits of Time by Isabel Colegate (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books discover Nazi affiliations in the past in prominent statesmen.
  14. 23
    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (slickdpdx)
  15. 02
    When She Was Good by Philip Roth (cometahalley)
1980s (77)
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» See also 1257 mentions

English (376)  Spanish (7)  German (6)  French (5)  Italian (5)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (2)  Japanese (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (408)
Showing 1-5 of 376 (next | show all)
For all the literary awards "The Remains of the Day" has received, it seems unfair for me to simply say the book was "just OK". In saying this, I'm reminded of that standard lame break-up line "... it's not YOU, it's ME." And that's probably true in this this case, e.g., it's not the BOOK, it's ME.
I picked this book up because many considered it a beautifully written, moving book about what it means to be the quintessential English Butler around the time of the First World War. The story is told in the first person by such a butler as he journeys through the English countryside, and reminisces about his profession and his life. But to me, it was like enduring my neighbors photo album as he talked on and on about his recent trip. With apologies to all the literary critics and the author, this type of book just doesn't grab me. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
A real jewel ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
Just re-read it after first having encountered the book in high school more than 17 years ago. I must admit this is a book I am more able to appreciate and with which it resonates so much more now that I am a 35-year old than when I was a teenager. ( )
  geoff79 | Jul 11, 2021 |
I've wanted to read a book by Ishiguro for years, so why not the one that won the Man Booker Prize? Reminiscent of Isle of Passion by Laura Restrepo in that not much happened, but the book was well written and never boring.

The book follows the stilted behavior of a proper, dignified English butler in the 1920s, when the world is changing from old world values to capitalism and professional politicians, a change which is anathema to the butler. The story is told by reminiscing during a solo automobile trip to the West of England. One of the underlying themes is aging, and it summed up best by these two paragraphs:

“Now, look, mate, I’m not sure I follow everything you’re saying. But if you ask me, your attitude’s all wrong, see? Don’t keep looking back all the time, you’re bound to get depressed. And all right, you can’t do your job as well as you used to. But it’s the same for all of us, see? We’ve all got to put our feet up at some point. Look at me. Been happy as a lark since the day I retired. All right, so neither of us are exactly in our first flush of youth, but you’ve got to keep looking forward.” And I believe it was then that he said:

“You’ve got to enjoy yourself. The evening’s the best part of the day. You’ve done your day’s work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it. That’s how I look at it. Ask anybody, they’ll all tell you. The evening’s the best part of the day.” ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1990)
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 376 (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
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Daryab̄andi, NajafTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawthorne, NigelReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kriek, BarthoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rybicki, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saracino, Maria AntoniettaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stiehl, HermannTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, DominicNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of Mrs Lenore Marshall.
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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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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.

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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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