I imagine this is a must read for anyone enamored with Downton Abbey. I must admit that my reading of The Remains of the Day was informed by Downton, which sadly, informs the majority of my knowledge on that slice of English history.
Friday, July 18, 2014
The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Having just read a couple of pot-boilers and more modern pop-cultural novels, I was hankering for something with more of a classic feel and reached for Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. I loved the subtle, teen sci-fi direction of Never Let Me Go, and was intrigued by Remains. The novel is set in the 50s, the era when England’s great houses are coming to a close. The book follows the manor’s head butler, Mr. Stevens, as he takes a road trip through the English countryside. Over the course of the trip he reflects back on his life of service to his employer, Lord Darlington. Though at times a little slow, Remains of the Day manages to have an impact. Mr. Stevens is a fascinating case study of a life measured by one’s service to another. Steven’s has placed a premium on his unwavering service to Lord Darlington and the running of the manor. As the book unfolds however, it becomes evident that his Lord ended up on the wrong side of history during WWII, with a dubious political track record. Though Stevens can be proud of his life and the way he carried himself, his life increasingly looks a bit of a sham for his slavish dedication and apologies for a Lord who has not held up his part of the social contract. Moreover, it’s clear Steven’s has made many personal and emotional sacrifices to maintain his standing as a top butler. Given his Lord’s shaming fall from grace, coupled by the collapse of the whole manor system, there’s no way to avoid feeling a tinge of melancholy for Stevens and the life he lead.