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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day (1989)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
12,792368321 (4.19)1 / 1209
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.
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    A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin (Othemts)
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    Letters Back to Ancient China by Herbert Rosendorfer (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Nette aus der Welt gefallene Männer erklären die Welt.
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    Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Two inhibited, unreliable narrators
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English (335)  Spanish (7)  German (6)  French (5)  Italian (4)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (2)  Japanese (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (366)
Showing 1-5 of 335 (next | show all)
If there's any book that's more stereotypically British, I have yet to read it. The Remains of the Day is about the emotional repression of a butler obsessed with dignity and loyalty. On our Brit lit bingo card, we're a reference to cricket away from a clean sweep. It doesn't really matter, though. What makes the book stand out is not its premise but rather the incredible quality of its prose.

Having previously read, Never Let Me Go, I was already familiar with Kazuo Ishiguro's ability to slowly and understatedly construct a narrative of great power that explodes at the end, but this book has him doing even more with even less. The stakes aren't high. Gregory, the butler, wants to hire a former employee, Miss Kenton, to come back and be the housekeeper of Darlington Hall, the place he's worked nearly his entire life. It's not a life-threatening situation, but Ishiguro builds its up so well that I ended up hoping just as much that Gregory could hire Miss Kenton as I did that Kathy and Tommy would be able to get a deferral in Never Let Me Go. And when that stiff old asshole Gregory drops that line at the end, "Indeed - why should I not admit it? - at that moment, my heart was breaking..." OOF. It was tough.

It's easy to berate those who fail to act on their feelings. They're cowards, they're losers, they clearly didn't care enough about the things they wanted or they would have tried harder, et cetera. Rather than do that, Ishiguro produces a sympathetic portrait of a man who was just a little too stubborn to be happy, like we all are sometimes. He's an intelligent, sensitive writer, and for a second time in as many books, he's left me very impressed. ( )
1 vote bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
I really loved "Never Let Me Go" and I really want to like this one. I can't. The prose is irritatingly slow and convoluted. I guess this book is simply too English for me. ( )
  meikuen | Apr 7, 2020 |
Like his father before him, Stevens is a butler, a career chosen for service and dedication to the highest in the land. Working for Lord Darlington in between the World Wars, he offered loyalty and discretion as various high-powered guests met to discuss the increasing perilous situation in Europe.

Post war the social landscape has changed dramatically. Stevens is still the butler at Darlington Hall, but his master is now a rich American, Mr Farraday. Stevens is encouraged by him to take a brief break, and offers to lend him his car for a motoring holiday. It is ideal timing as Stevens has recently received a letter from a past colleague, Miss Kenton, and sees it as an ideal opportunity to pay her a visit. As he travels through Wilshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall enjoying the sights and countryside he takes time to consider various matters; his service to Lord Darlington, the relationship that he had with his father and his housekeeper.

It is a melancholy story, full of subtlety whilst still having profound meaning and depth. The main character, Stevens, is the quintessentially English butler, composed and proficient; but whilst he can say the right words he lacks feeling and empathy because of his upbringing and career. I am not sure just how he does it, but Ishiguro has managed to capture the class distinctions perfectly in this book. Possibly because he has an outsider’s perspective on how society at the time functioned, or didn’t, and understands the minutia and restraint that a member of the household has to have whilst dealing with the great and the good. It is equally about what isn’t said and happens between the two main characters as it is about what actually happens, and it is impressive just how much emotion can be wrung out of such restrained prose. Good stuff. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Loyalty, dignity... so much can be taken from these words. Ishiguro uses these words in the form of a British butler whose loyalty would be admired by a Marine. Dignity. Dignity takes form in as discipline in a form that one may think of as servitude. It is a special value that only the British would understand. It is far beyond what I would ever have felt. It is quite sad that the happiness one feels in duty and loss. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
Waktu membaca buku ini memang sedikit membosankan dan mengantuk, tapi setelah membaca sampai selesai banyak sekali hikmah yang bisa kita ambil dari buku ini. ( )
  Titut | Feb 10, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 335 (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 (23 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
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.
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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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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