Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

I've been slacking in keeping tally on here, so this is me catching up, starting with The Remains of the Day

James Stevens, the aging butler of a once grand house, has a world view confined to the realm of his profession. When the opportunity arises to take a trip across 1950s England to visit a former work colleague Stevens reflects on the nature of his job, his former employer Lord Darlington, and the woman whom he is about to visit.

This book is one of the most understated books I've ever read, and its way one of the most melancholic. The story of his devotion to the job, while his father lay dying upstairs is one good example. Steven's quiet pride in his ability to continue his job while his father lay dying upstairs was just so very sad, as was the way in which he not only defended Lord Darlington but spoke of his 'honour' at being in a position of service to great world events.

In the end Stevens realises that his quest for dignity has cost him a life of love and fulfillment, which was the saddest moment of all. But, like a true butler, he drives back to the house to face his most pressing concern - how to react when his new American boss banters with him.

I loved this book. It's so quiet and elegant, and although you probably wouldn't think it there are some truly funny moments in there. I definitely recommend it.


Ann Elle Altman said...

I have wanted to read that book. Especially after watching the movie. I will pick it up.

Thanks. ann

hifidel said...

It's on my list, but I haven't gotten to it yet. (I've been kind of slow so far.)

You've made me really look forward to it. I hope to get to this one pretty soon.


Emily Cross said...

I have this book sitting on my shelf, can't wait to read it! I absolutely loved his book Never Let Me Go!

Rachel said...

I read this recently, it was on my Gaps list too -- I agree with your review. My sentiments towards Stevens vacillated between fury and pity -- for such an understated book, it sure drew out strong emotions in me.

At first I was surprised at how different the book was from the movie, but now I see that it must have been a challenge to film, since the book's narrative takes place in Stevens' head -- and the movie had to show what it couldn't just tell. I think both were a success, capitalizing on the strengths of their media. I loved the movie -- it is in my Top Three Favorite Unrequited Love Movies (alongside Brief Encounter and Far From Heaven), and it has one of the most erotic scenes I can recall in film, when Miss Kenton backs Stevens up into a corner to see what book he's reading. I think that scene was more gripping in the movie than in the book, because you caught her desire vs. his repression in a way that Stevens' narrative alone (in the book) didn't convey as well.

But I liked this book very much. And I also loved Never Let Me Go -- will be curious to see that movie when it comes out later this year!

moonrat said...

yeah, ditto everyone else. i love him and everything he writes... except the unconsoled, which i was unable to make myself finish. but literally everything else of his... shivers.

Anonymous said...

Oh, with the review and all the comments I can't wait to read this! It's #51 on my list. :)

Briony said...

I'm going to watch the movie this weekend, but I can see how it would have been difficult to make - it's just so subtle.

I'm keen to check out some more of his books, especially Never Let Me Go. I've heard nothing but great things.