The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day
Title The Remains of the Day
Author:  Kazuo Ishiguro
Length:  245 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
My Rating:  3.5 Stars


About This Book

It’s the 1950s and Stevens is a butler about to embark on an automobile holiday to the west country of England. During this holiday, we learn about what’s presently going on, as well as Steven’s past as a butler and various events that occurred in that time. Stevens also relates his own thoughts, feelings, and impressions about a variety of things; but principally, his thoughts on dignity and his job as a butler are foremost along with what he thinks greatness is.


My Thoughts

This book is definitely what I call a quiet novel – what some may call a slow read. What I call a quiet novel doesn’t typically have a fast-paced plot, nor is it usually plot-driven. That doesn’t mean it has no plot though; just not driven by the plot. Oftentimes, what I consider to be quiet novels are character-driven; and The Remains of the Day is definitely a character driven novel.

I think Ishiguro does a fantastic job of setting an atmosphere and drawing the reader into the world of a 20th century English butler as well as the character Stevens as a butler. He also leaves an element of ambiguity in this novel. Events that are told and/or actions of characters are elements that Ishiguro presents the reader with but leaves it open-ended. In other words, as readers, we don’t receive answers to all our questions.

Ishiguro also gives us the story without making judgments. There are events that happen that leave the reader wondering and speculating what they think about it. Ishiguro presents the situations, takes the reader into the lives of his characters, lets his character Stevens ruminate over his life as a butler, and leaves it at that. (Now, that doesn’t mean Stevens doesn’t make his own judgments though. He certainly has his own opinions!)

I do have to mention that there’s a humorous part in this story that has to do with bantering; bantering meaning, in this case, light-hearted and maybe sometimes funny or sarcastic conversation. Stevens has never been used to bantering with his employer. He’s all about being absolutely, 100% professional; and bantering feels unprofessional to him. However, his new employer seems to enjoy having this style of conversation with Stevens and that completely catches Stevens off guard. He doesn’t know what to do! I chuckled when he shared how he would be in his private room and would study bantering by listening to a radio program that had some bantering that he deemed was in the best of taste. I can just picture Stevens pacing his bedroom floor, practicing various witty comments and dialogue. 🙂 I don’t want to say too much, but in the end we see Stevens change his mind about this idea of bantering and begin to realize that this style of conversation actually has its merits.

I give this book 3.5 stars because while I do think it was good, it just wasn’t quite on the level of a 4 star read for me. It’s okay  for a character-driven novel; but this second time around reading it, it felt a wee bit lacking for some reason. I think Ishiguro’s writing style was good though and look forward to reading another title by him. I have another one of his books, Never Let Me Go, on hold at the library and it should be available any day now.


Quotes

‘What do you think dignity’s all about?’ The directness of this inquiry did, I admit, take me rather by surprise. ‘It’s rather a hard thing to explain in a few words, sir,’ I said. ‘But I suspect it comes down to not removing one’s clothing in public.’” (pg. 210)

Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day.” (pg. 244)

 

17 thoughts on “The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. I read this one years ago, and found it boring, which is really weird, but I didn’t find the 7 volumes of Marcel Proust boring at all – well, apart from 1 long scene in book 3.
    I really have to try again. Especially that I usually really like this author. Never Let Me Go is fantastic, a total different genre!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that term, quiet novel.

    I love how much we agree about it.

    I too have read it twice, and it shrinks in the second reading, most definitely. It’s not a book that renders itself to indefinite rereads.

    The re-readability factor is a tricky one. I think it’s a characteristic of the major classics, but not of the minor classics.

    I too have read Never Let Me Go twice, I love it, but it also ends there, hahaha. I have a serious problem with Ishiguro, right?

    So far, all his books merit, at least, one read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think you are right that the re-readability factor is tricky. I will say, there are at least a couple of modern works I’ve read that have been great when I’ve re-read them. But it does make you wonder – what makes a book a good one to re-read? Are there certain characteristics that make it more likely to be a good book to re-read? I suspect it in large part is a very individual thing. I wonder if it is more based on reader preferences and maybe possibly sometimes even timing of when the book is read. In other words, it could have been the perfect timing for a book and therefore was an excellent read. But upon re-reading it, maybe it loses its impact because the timing is different. Does that make sense? Even when thinking about the classics, there is still a variety of responses. You can have those who love certain classics and others who don’t love those very same classics. So I think what makes a good book, as well as what makes a good re-readable book, is probably subjective. Just my two cents worth anyway. 🙂 And I reserve the right to change my mind. LOL

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      • I agree that timing and preference are factors. But while it’s true that we will choose to re-read different books, classics are usually solid candidates for rereading. But some re-read books just because they like to do so. What I mean is that classics are seldom exhausted in a one time reading.

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  3. Good for you for giving it a try. There are certain modern books that I want to try, but I still stick with the classics, mostly. When I’ve read all of them, then I’ll try a modern book, lol! Well, perhaps I’ll slip in a modern book every 3 years or so … 😉

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    • I think you will have plenty of classics to keep you busy for a long time. If you keep with a time frame for classics – say anything 50 years or older – then books will continually be considered classics as time continues on. 🙂 Just curious, what are the modern books you’ve been wanting to try?

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      • I don’t know!!!! Let me see ….. I’ve been curious about Ishiguro, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and A Gentleman in Moscow and Wind-up Bird Chronicle and A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Secret History.

        I’ve read The DaVinci Code, The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, the first book of The Hunger Games and The Poisonwood Bible and didn’t care for any of them. I somewhat enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

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        • I’ve been curious about The Handmaid’s Tale too. I’ve purposefully NOT watched the show because I think I will read it at some point. 🙂 I also thought The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle sounded interesting. I loved both A Gentleman in Moscow and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! I’ve read the Guernsey book three times now. It’s one of my favorite books and a go-to comfort read for me. I’ve heard enough about The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo to stay away from it. Just sounds too dark, intense, and graphic for me. I also didn’t have much interest in The Poisonwood Bible either.

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  5. I completely agree with you about how Ishiguro both sets an atmosphere and refrains from making a judgment. I loved the quiet mood of this book, and it is one of the few novels (in my opinion) which have been put to film successfully. I highly encourage you to see the film after reading it now, if you haven’t. Both Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins were magnificent, and I hardly ever think a movie is worth the novel it came from. Thank you for reviewing this so beautifully for us.

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    • I have seen the movie! I saw it years ago; and then I watched it again after having read the book again this time. I was frustrated a bit regarding some of the things that were left out or changed. But having things left out/changed is to be expected when they adapt novels to movies. Still, I do agree it was well done.

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