Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro)

The Remains of the Day is my second Kazuo Ishiguro novel, and it is utterly different than Never Let Me Go. Or is it?

The latter is set some time in the future; Remains of the Day dwells in the past. But both focus on people whose sole job it is to serve others, even when it means sacrificing—or not being allowed to have—a life of one’s own.

Mr. Stevens is a butler who has taken tremendous pride in his job—well, his life’s work. For him, there is no higher ambition than to serve his master perfectly. To be invisible at just the right moment, and visible at just right moment. To see a need before it is spoken, to flawlessly manage a household, to be prepared for any request at any moment. His own wants and desires are never considered, and he can’t imagine why any servant would want more than this life.

For 30 years Stevens served Lord Darlington until the master died and his estate was purchased by an American. Stevens can’t quite figure out his new master. He is unlike an English gentlemen and has a curious method of dealing with Stevens, who struggles to learn the art of bantering.

His American master suggests that Stevens needs a vacation and insists that he take a week or drive around the country. Stevens, though reluctant at first, obliges, and his adventures begin. His journey, though, gives him ample time to reflect upon his years of service, to question his motivations and decisions, and to perhaps concede that his master was, after all, terribly flawed—and Stevens as well.

I absolutely loved this book. We want to shake Stevens into seeing what is before him. I put the movie on my Netflix queue immediately and can hardly wait to see it.

Other Reviews of The Remains of the Day

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Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I've seen this movie several times and really like it a lot. However, I've never read the book and really didn't enjoy Never Let Me Go. Maybe I'll give this book a try since I like the movie so much. Thanks for a good (and encouraging) review!

bibliofreak said...

Thanks very much for adding a link to my review Sarah! Nice blog too, I hope I can build my blog up to have as much content as yours one day!

As for The Remains of the Day, I think Never Let Me Go is the perfect comparison from Ishiguro's other novels. I love them both, but I have to admit I lean towards Never Let Me Go for some reason. Both are so repressed and 'British' - really hits home as somewhat of an English recluse myself.

Look forward to reading more in the future.

Anonymous said...

I never thought about the connection between the books that way. I always looked at NEVER as an oddball. I've also read his Hiroshima book (can't remember the title at all right now) as required reading for a continuing ed course. REMAINS is still my favorite, perhaps b/c I am a sucker for 1930s England. You are going to love the movie. Emma Thompson can do no wrong, in my opinion. I hope that somewhere in your lit homeschooling there is room for Sense and Sensibility and Much Ado About Nothing.

Hartford Brakes said...

I like reading the book, original version first before I watch the film. I'm always letdown by the movie adaptation. I hope this one would be different.