Originally published: 1989 (This edition 2017)
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published by: Faber & Faber
Length: 258 pages
Reading dates: 14-19 February 2022
The Shoreham by Sea book club are following the Chichester Libraries Reading Challenge this year and the choice for February was “a book that has been recommended to you”. We always make suggestions and then vote (I always try and choose something off my TBR) and Remains of the Day was the winner! I was thrilled to find this beautiful edition!
A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House.
In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past.
I always wonder if there is any point me reviewing a prize winning book (Remains of the Day won the Man Booker Prize in 1989 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017) as I’m sure my ramblings aren’t as well thought out or intelligent as many others! But I have set myself a challenge to review every book I have read so here we are!
The book is set in 1956. Stevens is the butler as Darlington Hall, a once great and well respected house now owned by an American man, Mr Farraday and the house has a much reduced staff. Mr Farraday suggests that Stevens take a holiday and offers him the use of his car. Stevens decides to travel to the West Country to visit Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper of Darlington Hall who moved to Cornwall when she married. He has been in correspondence with her since she left and has recently learnt her marriage is in difficulty,
Over the course of 6 days, we follow Stevens on his journey through the English countryside while he reminisces about Darlington House, and the previous owner Lord Darlington, who was heavily involved in politics. One of Stevens main memories was a conference held at the house with dignitaries from many countries to revisit the Versailles agreement and discuss the treatment of the Germans following their defeat in the First World War.
I really enjoyed hearing about the running of Darlington Hall from the point of view of Stevens (I love Downton Abbey) and I really enjoyed reading about the staff and about Stevens’ thoughts about what makes a great butler. The relationship between Stevens and Miss Kenton is the central theme of the book and despite the fact they are in love, neither is able to articulate their feelings and they never admit it to one another. Stevens in particular comes across as socially awkward, not sure how to speak to Miss Kenton, not sure how to “banter” with his employer and how to handle emotion (his own or Miss Kenton’s)
At times I really enjoyed the book but at other times I lost interest and found the story as little slow. So while I’m glad I read Remains of the Day, I wouldn’t say it was a book I really enjoyed (I’ve scored it 3/5 on Goodreads). Unfortunately I missed the book club discussion which is a real shame as I’d love to have heard what the others thought. I am very keen to watch the movie adaptation though and hope to do so soon.
I also reviewed The Buried Giant back in my first ever month of blogging in January 2018.
About the author:
Sir Kazuo Ishiguro OBE FRSA FRSL born 8 November 1954, is a British novelist, screenwriter, musician, and short-story writer. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and moved to Britain in 1960 with his parents when he was five.
A graduate of the University of East Anglia, Ishiguro is one of the most celebrated contemporary fiction authors writing in English. His first two novels, A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World, were noted for their explorations of Japanese identity and their elegiac tone. He thereafter explored other genres, including science fiction and historical fiction. He has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize four times, winning the prize in 1989 for his novel The Remains of the Day, which was adapted into a film of the same name in 1993. Salman Rushdie praised the novel as Ishiguro’s masterpiece, in which he “turned away from the Japanese settings of his first two novels and revealed that his sensibility was not rooted in any one place, but capable of travel and metamorphosis”. Time named Ishiguro’s science fiction novel Never Let Me Go as the best novel of 2005 and one of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.
In 2017, the Swedish Academy awarded Ishiguro the Nobel Prize in Literature, describing him in its citation as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.