The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day

4.0 82
by Kazuo Ishiguro

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A tragic, spiritual portrait of a perfect English butler and his reaction to his fading insular world in post-war England. A wonderful, wonderful book.


A tragic, spiritual portrait of a perfect English butler and his reaction to his fading insular world in post-war England. A wonderful, wonderful book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Stevens, an elderly butler who has spent 30 years in the service of Lord Darlington, ruminates on the past and inadvertently slackens his rigid grip on his emotions to confront the central issues of his life. Publishers Weekly called this Booker Prize-winner ``a tour de force--both a compelling psychological study and a portrait of a vanished social order.''
New York Times Books of the Century
...[A] beguiling comedy of manners that imperceptibly becomes a heart-rending study of personality...
From the Publisher
“An intricate and dazzling novel.” —The New York Times
“Brilliant and quietly devastating.” —Newsweek
A virtuoso performance ... put on with dazzling daring and aplomb.” —The New York Review of Books
“A perfect novel. I couldn’t put it down.” —Ann Beattie
“The novel rests firmly on the narrative sophistication and flawless control of tone ... of a most impressive novelist.” —Julian Barnes

Product Details

Faber and Faber
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from the Introduction by Salman Rushdie
‘I was very consciously trying to write for an international audience,’ Kazuo Ishiguro says of The Remains of the Day in his Paris Review interview (‘The Art of Fiction’, No. 196). ‘One of the ways I thought I could do this was to take a myth of England that was known internationally – in this case, the English butler.’
‘Jeeves was a big influence.’ This is a necessary genuflection. No literary butler can ever quite escape the gravitational field of Wodehouse’s shimmering Reginald, gentleman’s gentleman par excellence, saviour, so often, of Bertie Wooster’s imperilled bacon. But, even in the Wodehousian canon, Jeeves does not stand alone. Behind him can be seen the rather more louche figure of the Earl of Emsworth’s man, Sebastian Beach, enjoying a quiet tipple in the butler’s pantry at Blandings Castle. And other butlers – Meadowes, Maple, Mulready, Purvis – float in and out of Wodehouse’s world, not all of them pillars of probity. The English butler, the shadow that speaks, is, like all good myths, multiple and contradictory. One can’t help feeling that Gordon Jackson’s portrayal of the stoic Hudson in the 1970s TV series Upstairs, Downstairs may have been as important to Ishiguro as Jeeves: the butler as liminal figure, standing on the border between the worlds of ‘Upstairs’ and ‘Downstairs’, ‘Mr Hudson’ to the servants, plain ‘Hudson’ to the gilded creatures he serves.
Now that the popularity of another television series, Downton Abbey, has introduced a new generation to the bizarreries of the English class system, Ishiguro’s powerful, understated entry into that lost time to make, as he says, a portrait of a ‘wasted life’ provides a salutary, disenchanted counterpoint to the less sceptical methods of Julian Fellowes’s TV drama. The Remains of the Day, in its quiet, almost stealthy way, demolishes the value system of the whole upstairs-downstairs world.
(It should be said that Ishiguro’s butler is in his way as complete a fiction as Jeeves. Just as Wodehouse made immortal a world that never existed except in his imagination, so also Ishiguro projects his imagination into a poorly documented zone. ‘I was surprised to find,’ he says, ‘how little there was about servants written by servants, given that a sizable proportion of people in this country were employed in service right up until the Second World War. It was amazing that so few of them had thought their lives worth writing about. So most of the stuff in The Remains of the Day...was made up.’)
The surface of The Remains of the Day is almost perfectly still. Stevens, a butler well past his prime, is on a week’s motoring holiday in the West Country. He tootles around, taking in the sights and encountering a series of green-and-pleasant country folk who seem to have escaped from one of those English films of the 1950s in which the lower orders doff their caps and behave with respect towards a gent with properly creased trousers and flattened vowels. It is, in fact, July 1956 – the month in which Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal triggered the Suez Crisis – but such contemporaneities barely impinge upon the text. (Ishiguro’s first novel, A Pale View of Hills, was set in post-war Nagasaki but hardly mentioned the Bomb. The Remains of the Day ignores Suez, even though that débâcle marked the end of the kind of Britain whose passing is a central subject of the novel.)
Nothing much happens. The high point of Mr Stevens’s little outing is his visit to Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper at Darlington Hall, the great house to which Stevens is still attached as ‘part of the package’, even though ownership has passed from Lord Darlington to a jovial American named Farraday who has a disconcerting tendency to banter. Stevens hopes to persuade Miss Kenton to return to the Hall. His hopes come to nothing. He makes his way home. Tiny events; but why, then, is the ageing manservant to be found, near the end of his holiday, weeping before a complete stranger on the pier at Weymouth? Why, when the stranger tells him that he ought to put his feet up and enjoy the evening of his life, is it so hard for Stevens to accept such sensible, if banal, advice? What has blighted the remains of his day?

What People are saying about this

Julian Barnes
The novel rests firmly on the narrative sophistication and flawless control of tone…of a most impressive novelist.
Salman Rushdie
Brilliant…A story both beautiful and cruel.
Ann Beattie
A perfect novel. I couldn't put it down.

Meet the Author

KAZUO ISHIGURO is the author of six novels, including the international best-seller Never Let Me Go. He received an OBE for service to literature and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

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The Remains of the Day 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 82 reviews.
Lii More than 1 year ago
The book is about Stevens a butler in Lord Darlington's house. When Mr. Darlington dies, the house is sold to an American gentleman who spends most of his time in America. He suggests to Stevens that he should take a few days off. Stevens decides to travel around England for 6 days. During this journey he spends most of his time to remember the good old days. As I started reading this book I thought it might be a boring one, instead it turned out to be an emotional and heartbreaking journey for me as well. You will not find a lot of action in this book. I would say it's a sad story of what didn't happened. What really makes this book a great read is how well detailed Steven's personality, emotions and thoughts are described. Every sentence is simply perfect. Definitely must read for those who don't mind a slower pace.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Highly recommended. It's difficult to believe how much Kazuo Ishiguro packed into this short (by today's standards), highly praised novel -- a lifetime of work and relationships, the realization of inescapable regret, and the hope it is not too late to join the rest of humanity. Stevens is a butler for an English house that is no longer great, nor is it owned by the family for which it is named. His postwar employer is, instead, an American named Farraday; as a stranger will point out to him later, 'An American? Well, they're the only ones can afford it now.' Farraday 'affords' Darlington Hall by shutting much of the house down and using a reduced staff, which Stevens can understand, as the staff that would be available would not be up to his own high standards. When he receives a sad, lonely letter from Darlington's former housekeeper, Miss Kenton (now Mrs. Benn), and later is told by Farraday that he can borrow his employer's car for a vacation on the road, he weighs the opportunity and decides to take it for 'professional reasons' -- to see if he can lure back the highly qualified Miss Kenton to her former position. During the brief journey, he spends much of his time contemplating what 'dignity' in his profession means -- and whether he lived up to it. After a plethora of recollections about the late Lord Darlington during the prewar years and after his meeting with Miss Kenton, Stevens comes to two great understandings: he did not serve a great man as he thought he had, and, in doing so, he had missed a chance for love and fulfillment. His devotion to Lord Darlington has betrayed him, personally and professionally. 'I can't even say I made my own mistakes,' he laments. 'Really -- one has to say -- what dignity is there in that?' This revelation does not come quickly or easily to either Stevens or the reader. Each anecdote that Stevens recalls to illustrate a point he wishes to make to himself -- the definition of dignity, how he upheld dignity by serving his employer while his own father lay dying -- subtly reveals how much he has shut himself down emotionally in order to serve. With each story, it becomes clearer that Lord Darlingon is an easily manipulated man, out of his league in world politics but insistent on playing the role of peacemaker -- even when it is no longer appropriate or wise. When his friendship with a woman leads him to firing two Jewish maids, it foreshadows his attempts to influence the British government into appeasing Hitler and the Nazis at any cost. He goes so far as to say that the U.K. should perhaps follow Germany's lead. 'Germany and Italy have set their houses in order by acting . . . See what strong leadership can do if it's allowed to act. None of this universal suffrage nonsense.' Stevens unwittingly proves Lord Darlington's point for him -- he trusts Lord Darlington's judgment as blindly as any German trusted Hitler's, believing that 'people like him' are too ignorant to make the decisions that must be made and following the great man contentedly -- and thus making a bad decision. When it comes to Miss Kenton, here too his perception is kept in check by his need for professionalism and dignity. His repeated emphasis on their 'professional' relationship and his desire to reconnect with her as a 'professional' only highlight the extent to which he will go to suppress his real feelings -- and the very real possibilities that existed. In life and love, Stevens realises he has been avoiding both. In the end, however, there is hope. After sending Miss Kenton home, back to her husband, Stevens turns to 'bantering'; that is, engaging with people without resorting to pre-programmed professional phrases --in short, truly interacting with his fellow humans. 'A
Enicus More than 1 year ago
Definitely an interesting book. It follows a man who has tried to live a fulfilling life, one with dignity for the past thirty-some-odd years and still attempts to discern what that means for himself. In order to reassure himself, he looks back on his life he's had so far and attempts to make sense of what exactly his role was and if it actually made a difference. Quite a powerful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is well written and most of it is the butler telling his story and events of his life as a butler in England.
ViVT More than 1 year ago
I'm so glad I read this book. I first saw the movie years ago and it's one of my favorites. I could see the movie characters in my mind while reading the book and that made the book make more sense and much more enjoyable. I'll be reading more of Mr Ishiguro's books for sure!
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I am a fan of anything related to manor life, service, and the British aristocracy. This book has all of that, but is additionally a strong character study that takes the reader inside the narrator's introspections in his "remains of the day" that is his life. Moving, thought provoking, yet not depressing. A nice journey into the narrator and into Darlington Hall.
luv2readSA More than 1 year ago
I did like the book, but it was slow going.
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Sissy51 More than 1 year ago
The book is a study of how,during that era, this butler missed opportunities,love,his lack of education,his very sad and brittle relationship with a father who molded him into the perfect butler/servant. He was raised to behave and to suppress his own desires. Whatever the goings on around "Mr Stevens&Miss Kenton" this is, in the end, a love story between two people who,for the times they inhabit,could not connect. E. M. Forster seems to have had some influence on Ishiguro in that Forster's motto was that we must " only connect". Apparently the times did not allow for it here.Definitely recommend along with E,M,Forsters works,as they seem to give continuity of the represented era.
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