The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307576187
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/15/2010
Series: Vintage International
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 29,712
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Kazuo Ishiguro is the 2017 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His work has been translated into more than 40 languages. Both The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go have sold more than 1 million copies, and both were adapted into highly acclaimed films. Ishiguro's other work includes The Buried Giant, Nocturnes, A Pale View of the Hills, and An Artist of the Floating World.

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE • JULY 1956

Darlington Hall

It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days. An expedition, I should say, which I will undertake alone, in the comfort of Mr Farraday's Ford; an expedition which, as I foresee it, will take me through much of the finest countryside of England to the West Country, and may keep me away from Darlington Hall for as much as five or six days. The idea of such a journey came about, I should point out, from a most kind suggestion put to me by Mr Farraday himself one afternoon almost a fortnight ago, when I had been dusting the portraits in the library. In fact, as I recall, I was up on the step-ladder dusting the portrait of Viscount Wetherby when my employer had entered carrying a few volumes which he presumably wished returned to the shelves. On seeing my person, he took the opportunity to inform me that he had just that moment finalized plans to return to the United States for a period of five weeks between August and September. Having made this announcement, my employer put his volumes down on a table, seated himself on the chaise-longue, and stretched out his legs. It was then, gazing up at me, that he said:

'You realize, Stevens, I don't expect you to be locked up here in this house all the time Γm away. Why don't you take the car and drive off somewhere for a few days? You look like you could make good use of a break.'

Coming out of the blue as it did, I did not quite know how to reply to such a suggestion. I recall thanking him for his consideration, but quite probably I said nothing very definite, for my employer went on:

'I'm serious, Stevens. I really think you should take a break. I'll foot the bill for the gas. You fellows, you're always locked up in these big houses helping out, how do you ever get to see around this beautiful country of yours?'

This was not the first time my employer had raised such a question; indeed, it seems to be something which genuinely troubles him. On this occasion, in fact, a reply of sorts did occur to me as I stood up there on the ladder; a reply to the effect that those of our profession, although we did not see a great deal of the country in the sense of touring the countryside and visiting picturesque sites, did actually 'see' more of England than most, placed as we were in houses where the greatest ladies and gentlemen of the land gathered. Of course, I could not have expressed this view to Mr Farraday without embarking upon what might have seemed a presumptuous speech. I thus contented myself by saying simply:

'It has been my privilege to see the best of England over the years, sir, within these very walls.'

Mr Farraday did not seem to understand this statement, for he merely went on: Ί mean it, Stevens. It's wrong that a man can't get to see around his own country. Take my advice, get out of the house for a few days.'

As you might expect, I did not take Mr Farraday's suggestion at all seriously that afternoon, regarding it as just another instance of an American gentleman's unfamiliarity with what was and what was not commonly done in England. The fact that my attitude to this same suggestion underwent a change over the following days — indeed, that the notion of a trip to the West Country took an ever-increasing hold on my thoughts — is no doubt substantially attributable to — and why should I hide it? — the arrival of Miss Kenton's letter, her first in almost seven years if one discounts the Christmas cards. But let me make it immediately clear what I mean by this; what I mean to say is that Miss Kenton's letter set off a certain chain of ideas to do with professional matters here at Darlington Hall, and I would underline that it was a preoccupation with these very same professional matters that led me to consider anew my employer's kindly meant suggestion. But let me explain further.

The fact is, over the past few months, I have been responsible for a series of small errors in the carrying out of my duties. I should say that these errors have all been without exception quite trivial in themselves. Nevertheless,I think you will understand that to one not accustomed to committing such errors, this development was rather disturbing, and I did in fact begin to entertain all sorts of alarmist theories as to their cause. As so often occurs in these situations, I had become blind to the obvious — that is, until my pondering over the implications of Miss Kenton's letter finally opened my eyes to the simple truth: that these small errors of recent months have derived from nothing more sinister than a faulty staff plan.

It is, of course, the responsibility of every butler to devote his utmost care in the devising of a staff plan. Who knows how many quarrels, false accusations, unnecessary dismissals, how many promising careers cut short can be attributed to a butler's slovenliness at the stage of drawing up the staff plan? Indeed, I can say I am in agreement with those who say that the ability to draw up a good staff plan is the cornerstone of any decent butler's skills. I have myself devised many staff plans over the years, and I do not believe I am being unduly boastful if I say that very few ever needed amendment. And if in the present case the staff plan is at fault, blame can be laid at no one's door but my own. At the same time, it is only fair to point out that my task in this instance had been of an unusually difficult order.

What had occurred was this. Once the transactions were over — transactions which had taken this house out of the hands of the Darlington family after two centuries — Mr Farraday let it be known that he would not be taking up immediate residence here, but would spend a further four months concluding matters in the United States. In the meantime, however, he was most keen that the staff of his predecessor — a staff of which he had heard high praise — be retained at Darlington Hall. This 'staff' he referred to was, of course, nothing more than the skeleton team of six kept on by Lord Darlington's relatives to administer to the house up to and throughout the transactions; and I regret to report that once the purchase had been completed, there was little I could do for Mr Farraday to prevent all but Mrs Clements leaving for other employment. When I wrote to my new employer conveying my regrets at the situation, I received by reply from America instructions to recruit a new staff 'worthy of a grand old English house'. I immediately set about trying to fulfil Mr Farraday's wishes, but as you know, finding recruits of a satisfactory standard is no easy task nowadays, and although I was pleased to hire Rosemary and Agnes on Mrs Clements's recommendation, I had got no further by the time I came to have my first business meeting with Mr Farraday during the short preliminary visit he made to our shores in the spring of last year. It was on that occasion — in the strangely bare study of Darlington Hall — that Mr Farraday shook my hand for the first time, but by then we were hardly strangers to each other; quite aside from the matter of the staff, my new employer in several other instances had had occasion to call upon such qualities as it may be my good fortune to possess and found them to be, I would venture, dependable. So it was, I assume, that he felt immediately able to talk to me in a businesslike and trusting way, and by the end of our meeting, he had left me with the administration of a not inconsiderable sum to meet the costs of a wide range of preparations for his coming residency. In any case, my point is that it was during the course of this interview, when I raised the question of the difficulty of recruiting suitable staff in these times, that Mr Farraday, after a moment's reflection, made his request of me; that I do my best to draw up a staff plan — "some sort of servants' rota' as he put it — by which this house might be run on the present staff of four — that is to say, Mrs Clements, the two young girls, and myself. This might, he appreciated, mean putting sections of the house 'under wraps', but would I bring all my experience and expertise to bear to ensure such losses were kept to a minimum? Recalling a time when I had had a staff of seventeen under me, and knowing how not so long ago a staff of twenty-eight had been employed here at Darlington Hall, the idea of devising a staff plan by which the same house would be run on a staff of four seemed, to say the least, daunting. Although I did my best not to, something of my scepticism must have betrayed itself, for Mr Farraday then added, as though for reassurance, that were it to prove necessary, then an additional member of staff could be hired. But he would be much obliged, he repeated, if I could 'give it a go with four'.

Now naturally, like many of us, I have a reluctance to change too much of the old ways. But there is no virtue at all in clinging as some do to tradition merely for its own sake. In this age of electricity and modern heating systems, there is no need at all to employ the sorts of numbers necessary even a generation ago. Indeed, it has actually been an idea of mine for some time that the retaining of unnecessary numbers simply for tradition's sake — resulting in employees having an unhealthy amount of time on their hands — has been an important factor in the sharp decline in professional standards. Furthermore, Mr Farraday had made it clear that he planned to hold only very rarely the sort of large social occasions Darlington Hall had seen frequently in the past. I did then go about the task Mr Farraday had set me with some dedication; I spent many hours working on the staff plan, and at least as many hours again thinking about it as I went about other duties or as I lay awake after retiring. Whenever I believed I had come up with something, I probed it for every sort of oversight, tested it through from all angles. Finally, I came up with a plan which, while perhaps not exactly as Mr Farraday had requested, was the best, I felt sure, that was humanly possible. Almost all the attractive parts of the house could remain operative: the extensive servants' quarters — including the back corridor, the two still rooms and the old laundry — and the guest corridor up on the second floor would be dust-sheeted, leaving all the main ground-floor rooms and a generous number of guest rooms. Admittedly, our present team of four would manage this programme only with reinforcement from some daily workers; my staff plan therefore took in the services of a gardener, to visit once a week, twice in the summer, and two cleaners, each to visit twice a week. The staff plan would, furthermore, for each of the four resident employees mean a radical altering of our respective customary duties. The two young girls, I predicted, would not find such changes so difficult to accommodate, but I did all I could to see that Mrs Clements suffered the least adjustments, to the extent that I undertook for myself a number of duties which you may consider most broad-minded of a butler to do.

Even now, I would not go so far as to say it is a bad staff plan; after all, it enables a staff of four to cover an unexpected amount of ground. But you will no doubt agree that the very best staff plans are those which give clear margins of error to allow for those days when an employee is ill or for one reason or another below par. In this particular case, of course, I had been set a slightly extraordinary task, but I had nevertheless not been neglectful to incorporate 'margins' wherever possible. I was especially conscious that any resistance there may be on the part of Mrs Clements, or the two girls, to the taking on of duties beyond their traditional boundaries would be compounded by any notion that their workloads had greatly increased. I had then, over those days of struggling with the staff plan, expended a significant amount of thought to ensuring that Mrs Clements and the girls, once they had got over their aversion to adopting these more 'eclectic' roles, would find the division of duties stimulating and unburdensome.

I fear, however, that in my anxiety to win the support of Mrs Clements and the girls, I did not perhaps assess quite as stringently my own limitations; and although my experience and customary caution in such matters prevented my giving myself more than I could actually carry out, I was perhaps negligent over this question of allowing myself a margin. It is not surprising then, if over several months, this oversight should reveal itself in these small but telling ways. In the end, I believe the matter to be no more complicated than this: I had given myself too much to do.

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.

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The Remains of the Day 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 149 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
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!
imjustmea on LibraryThing 23 days ago
What makes a great butler? Mr. Stevens answers this question as he reflects on his life and his chosen profession while driving through the British countryside on his way to meet an old colleague. According to Stevens, one of the characteristics of a great butler is dignity, that elusive trait that seems to allow Englishmen to keep a stiff upper lip while facing adversity and difficult circumstances. A great butler must also serve in a "distinguished household" and this is where Stevens runs into some difficulty. He can cite several examples of his "dignity" in trying situations but he isn't as convincing when trying to justify his service to the disgraced Lord Darlington.In this quiet but intense story by Kazuo Ishiguro, a man is dealing with his regrets and life choices. Although not much action takes place, it is a gripping story and you are drawn into the mind of the main character despite his staid and cautious nature.An excellent read and I look forward to reading the more recent novels by this author.
m.l.mackenzie on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Prior to reading this for the first time, I thought it sounded dry and relatively uninteresting in general, but decided to read it anyways in an attempt to read through all of the Booker Prize winners. I have now read it twice, both times in one sitting. It is a delightful, heartbreaking portrait of a butler completely devoted to his work and loyal to his employer, with the subtlest yet most effective style and content of any literature I have ever read.
JaneStevenson on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Very unusual. Kind of hard to get through, and yet it stays with you. One line made me cry - only one line throughout the book - just that one very slight nod to what he had lost.
oreitheror on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I completely fell in love with this book, superbly written. I never imagined my interest would be held by a book about a butler. I literally cried at the end. I only wish I could be as all consume by my career as Mr. Stevens and be perfectly content, but there's such tragedy in that as well!
jonbey on LibraryThing 25 days ago
So subtle, so beautiful, so tragic.How many people waste their lives in this way?
scofer on LibraryThing 25 days ago
A wonderful read. I sought this book out after thoroughly enjoying Never Let Me Go. Ishiguro is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Stevens, a loyal and dedicated butler serving Lord Darlington for more than 30 years in one of England¿s grand houses, looks back on his life and years of service on a motoring trip across England with the ultimate goal of visiting Miss Kenton, a former maid at Darlington Hall, under the auspice of a business trip to help alleviate staffing issues. As the story unfolds, Stevens examines the meaning of ¿dignity¿ and the true character of his former employer, a Nazi sympathizer before WWII. Also evident are Stevens¿ missed opportunities and sacrifices made in order to be a ¿great butler¿; in particular, the failure to act on his true feelings for Miss Kenton. Heartbreaking and thought provoking. I have not yet seen the movie, but am eager to see the portrayals of Stevens by Anthony Hopkins and Miss Kenton by Emma Thompson.
gwoodrow on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This book truly amazed me. I think it takes a truly talented writer to take what is an essentially simple premise (a butler looking back on his career during a road trip alone) and weave it into something so poignant and heartbreaking. Ishiguro turns the subtle into the powerful at every turn. He creates a flawed, often unlikable protagonist in the character of Stevens and still manages to make the reader feel deeply sympathetic for him. Even more than that, the reader feels the emotions Stevens feels without Ishiguro needing to beat us over the head with excessive description or over-emphasis. To do all this in just around 250 pages is also a testament to the author's abilities. While the simplicity of the story necessarily means that it may not have you on the edge of the seat reading as quickly as possible, neither does it seem to have a dull moment in which your attention drifts. That was my experience, at least. Fittingly for an england-based novel, I would perhaps compare it to a cup of tea: something to be savored and contemplated gently as opposed to guzzled down. Recommended highly as an armchair book on a cold rainy day under a cozy blanket.
Lman on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The Remains of the Day was a difficult book for me to read, in more ways than one, requiring absolute concentration on a somewhat cheerless subject. And yet, when I reached the last word and turned the page, I was genuinely surprised to find myself finished. Such a contradiction may also apply to this whole work as Kazuo Ishiguro, using the most sublime prose and beautiful language, constructs an impeccable portrait of a British butler in the early 20th century.Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall finds himself, for the first time in a long life of service, able to avail himself of a few days away, and ventures on a journey through the English countryside, and a journey down memory lane. In doing so he relates, not only his experiences of his previous years as butler for Lord Darlington, but his ideals and beliefs, his opinions and, more importantly, his reasons behind virtually his entire life¿s actions. Plus the difficulties he now encounters in his present role, working for a foreign employer, an American, in what has become, perhaps, a foreign world to one such as him - with changes in duties, like the need to learn how to banter - offer him the chance to contemplate issues and past actions in an entirely different light. And this journey accentuates his desire to portray the quintessential dignity of the English butler to the detriment of all else in his life, even when on holiday.This is a poignant tale ¿ it is distressing, at times heart-rending, often upsetting and quite emotional. But most of all it is sad. For as Stevens motors slowly through the countryside and narrates his thoughts, and his encounters, the reader subtly travels through the events of his life, and witnesses his subjugation of any personal emotion, or reaction, in order to carry out, in his mind, his primary purpose of serving a great man. And the ability of the author to paint such a moving portrayal of a character, who is difficult to like, to sympathise with, but causes such heartbreak in his inability to mourn his father¿s death or acknowledge any personal relationship with the housekeeper, Ms Kenton, accordingly exemplifies the complexities and inconsistencies of such a man.Overall I am astonished at the author¿s skill to visually render, in my mind, such a vivid, realistic image of a British butler whose attitude, language and paradigm are superbly appropriate to the society of the time. This emotive story merits the perseverance and absorption, perhaps required by the reader, to finish the tale; for without doubt, the past, and what remains in this butler's day and age, is a tale worthy of consideration.
Katie_H on LibraryThing 25 days ago
It is hard to believe how much meaning Ishiguro was able to pack into this short novel. It is beautifully written, and the themes are simple and understated. Stevens is a proper English butler in post World War II England. Lord Darlington, his long-time employer has passed away, and his services are now retained by an American. His large staff of 30 people has been reduced to 3, and the class system that he is so accustomed to is fading before his eyes. After 30 years of service at Darlington Hall, he takes his first road trip, the goal being to visit the former housekeeper, Miss Kenton. In a mix of comedy and tragedy, Stevens is forced to face the mistakes of his life: his misguided support of his employer, a Nazi sympathizer, the suppression of his deep feelings towards Miss Kenton, allowing her to slip away from him, and in one of the most poignant and heartbreaking moments of the novel, Stevens's refusal to allow himself to grieve over his father's dead body, because he must attend to guests. While attempting to balance his public and private life, he has always sacrificed his true emotions in order to present a face of dignity as a proper butler should, but he is now forced to deal with what remains of his life, thus "The Remains of the Day." This is a wonderful and breathtaking novel that should not be missed.
marysargent on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Marvelously written. Impressive ability to give us the full story in spite of its been told to us by a self-deceiving narrator.
scatterbrainbucket on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This a devastating, sad read. There is so much unsaid in this book that seeps mood and melancholia. A wonderful historical read: restreained yet powerful.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing 25 days ago
It takes fifty pages or so to get into, but you'll have a hard time putting it down once you do. On the face of the story, it's hard to believe it will prove all that interesting, but you'll be fascinated despite yourself. The narrator's musings and wanderings are fascinating and thought provoking, and this book will lead you to search out Ishiguro's other work. This is a sweet and engaging read--highly recommended.
piefuchs on LibraryThing 25 days ago
A truly great character portrait and a devastating commentary on English culture. The Remains of the Day is narrated by a butler who defines himself by his servitude. The book spans the time period between WWI and WWII, during which the British upper class, and hence those who served them, were rendered irrelevant. Unable to be inspired by, or even see, the changing times, he steadfastly clings to the old ways.
technodiabla on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The more I read of Ishiguro's the less enamored I am with his books. All thatI've read of his(and certainly Remains) are perfectly structured and paced, but they are allstructured in thesame way and use the same conventions of memory recall to tell the story. InRemains,Stevens reminds me way too much of Christopher Banks from When We Were Orphans(and Ifound Banks to be extremely annoying). Stevens did improve through the book andI likedthe last 1/3 better than the first 2/3. I would never had finished it if I hadnot seen and lovedthe movie. If you're going to read a lot of Ishiguro I recommend spreading themout so youdon't get tired of his style.
citygirl on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The Author, and Why: This guy is phenomenally talented, brilliant. Almost too effective. Two years ago I read Never Let Me Go and was so afflicted with sadness that just recently have I felt sufficiently recovered to try another one of Ishiguro's novels. Thank god that this one, while certainly sad, is nowhere near as devastating as NLMG. The book: The first thing I noticed was the Dickensian nature of the prose, in that it takes this narrator, a butler in a grand old English house, takes forever to make a point, is very clear, eventually, in what he wishes to convey, and every syllable is a delight. I'm sure this book has been reviewed ad nauseum so I'll limit my observations. Stevens is an endearing character from the inside, altho he must seem awfully reserved and detached from the outside. The sole -- and I mean sole -- focus of his life is to perfectly embody the ideal butler. The book is about the repercussions of that, especially to one's (as he would put it) personal life. I was surprised to find it humorous in places and enjoyed Stevens' view of his role, as support to Lord Darlington, in major political events of the 1920s through 40s. I'm looking forward to renting the DVD very, very soon.
mrstreme on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The Remains of the Day is a perfect example of a character-driven story. It¿s the narrative of Stevens, an English butler who took a road trip when his American employer was on holiday. While you read about Stevens¿ traveling adventures, you learn more about Stevens¿ career as a butler to Lord Darlington, a prominent English diplomat who had ties to the Nazis before the war.Stevens¿ entire career was devoted to serving his employer in a dignified fashion. His ultimate goal was to make his employer¿s life easier so his employer could focus on being a ¿good¿ person. As Stevens recounted his career with Lord Darlington, he reflected on his employer¿s decisions. Always faithful, he maintained a blind loyalty to Lord Darlington ¿ even when situations indicated the man¿s flaws. The reader can see where Stevens struggled to maintain his loyalty. However, he always sided with Lord Darlington¿ for if Lord Darlington wasn¿t the best man he could be, than Stevens was a failure as his butler.While on his road trip, Stevens hoped to meet a former housekeeper, Miss Kenton, to ask her to return to Darlington Hall. She worked with Stevens during its heyday, and they shared a very unusual relationship. At times, I felt that they were attracted to each other, and then other times, I thought they lived to annoy each other. It was a nice tango that moved the storyline at an interesting pace.Admittedly, I was a little thrown off by Kazuo Ishiguro¿s writing style at the beginning. Stevens initially came through as stuffy and detailed, but after 25 pages, I settled into this story. The Remains of the Day offered a compelling look into the life of an English servant and his struggle to maintain his dignity while his employer¿s life shattered. His pursuit of Miss Kenton illustrated his desire to put things as they were (an impossible task). Smart and intriguing with excellent character development, I would highly recommend this Booker Prize winner to anyone who enjoys good literary fiction.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing 25 days ago
It is sometimes said that butlers only truly exist in England. Other countries, whatever title is actually used, have only manservants. I tend to believe this is true. Continentals are unable to be butlers because they are as a breed incapable of emotional restraint which only the English race are capable of. (p. 43)Thus does Stevens, a butler on a fine English estate, describe the dignity and restraint he sees as essential elements of the truly great butlers -- a title he will not allow himself to claim, although it is probably deserved. Stevens spent 30 years in service at Darlington Hall, beginning in the 1920s. He did all his master asked of him, with complete decorum and the much-admired restraint. He was assisted by a housekeeper, Miss Kenton, who left after many years to marry and have a family of her own. The novel begins with Stevens taking a rare holiday, a trip across the country to visit Miss Kenton. A recent letter from her led him to believe she would be interested in returning to service at Darlington Hall. The letter resurrected memories and emotions; long suppressed in the interest of dignity and restraint. During Stevens' journey, he relives his years serving Lord Darlington, and his relationship with Miss Kenton. The story is told entirely in Stevens' voice. Ishiguro has a way of making the situation perfectly plain to the reader, even though much is left unsaid. The reader sees a side of Lord Darlington that Stevens himself was unable to acknowledge. And his feelings for Miss Kenton are crystal clear, even though they never break through his reserved exterior. I nearly cried when he and Miss Kenton parted company the first time, and their reunion was heavily laden with missed opportunity and dashed hopes that once again were quite moving.I was worried that this book would be spoiled by having seen the film many years ago. And while I couldn't help envisioning Stevens just as he was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, I still found myself immersed in this book as if experiencing the story for the first time. Wonderful, emotional, reading.
ladycato on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I decided to start the year with a modern classic, and I'm very glad I did. I have never seen the movie, though I remember the buzz about it when it came out. This is a story that is delicately assembled. Mr. Stevens is the perfect English butler who has devoted much of his life to the service of Lord Darlington. Still serving in the same house but now under an American gentleman, Mr. Stevens begins to reminisce after receiving a letter from the former housekeeper of the household.This book flows. The first few pages, I had some difficulty because of the formality of the prose, and then I let the butler's voice take over and I imagined everything like an Agatha Christie setting. Once I was in, it snared me completely. The beauty of this book is that the butler is completely defined by his job and by his importance to his employer. There is a continued reference to the meaning of dignity (and I loved, loved, loved the part involving his father "searching for lost jewels") and it's handled with eloquence. Mr. Stevens is introspective, but in a very detached - if I dare say - British way. Everything is seen through his eyes, and yet the reader understands that Mr. Stevens remains willfully ignorant about many things.I loved this book much more than I expected and I think the underlying philosophical questions will linger for a while. And I already added the movie to the top of my Netflix queue.
samfsmith on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This could be the perfect, short, first-person novel. It can¿t be more than 70k words, yet it says so much. The voice of Stevens the butler is perfect, as is his questioning of his past while he professes to be so proud of it.I only wish that I had read it before seeing the movie. I can¿t tell if my love of the book has been influenced by the images from the movie. They are both excellent.
babemuffin on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The book is written from the point of view of an English Butler. It is written in his contemplation of events in his life. Darlington Hall, where has served the family for many years, was sold to an American. He stayed on to serve however he came to realise that the number of staff is insufficient.A letter from a previous housekeeper of this household prompted him to seek her services. He made a 'motoring' trip to see her and along this trip, he contemplated his life.It is amazing to see that whilst he believes he has been a good butler (very attentive to the needs of the household and has barely miss a thing) just how blind he is to the people around him. It makes me laugh, unbelieving as how blind one can be, but it also makes me feel for him.
Kasthu on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The Remains of the Day is a hard book to describes. Ostensibly about an aging butler who¿s given a few days off to tour the English countryside, there are many, many layers to this complicated novel. Stevens is the prototype of the repressed butler who has a preoccupation with maintaining one¿s ¿dignity.¿ Being a butler is not simply a job; it¿s a way of life. Stevens¿s relationship with the lively housekeeper Miss Kenton is shaky, and Stevens prides himself on the way he deals with her. His obsession with being the ¿perfect¿ servant is a little unsettling at times, and there was nothing in his behavior that I could sympathize with, but in all this is a wonderful psychological study of a man who essentially doesn¿t have a life of his own.