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.
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.
“‘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)