Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro could be a playwright, or at least a writer of monologues, as well as a novelist. I’m impressed by his ability to inhabit the mind of his narrator and enable the reader to do the same. In this book, when the consummate English butler Mr. Stevens felt unsure, I, too, had questions. I thought I knew more than Mr. Stevens, the narrator of the novel, himself, could see undercurrents and subtleties that he had chosen to ignore or was unable to see. But I couldn’t even be sure that I was not blinded by my own assumptions. I felt pity for Mr. Stevens, the coldness and futility of his life service to an ultimately unworthy cause. And yet . . . . It’s that ambiguity that gives the novel its beauty and makes it stay with me.

I imagined actor Anthony Hopkins as Mr. Stevens throughout my reading although I’ve not seen the movie version of Remains of the Day. I’m sure Mr. Hopkins did an admirable job in the role. However, I do wonder whether the movie was able to capture the nuance and self-deception and melancholy inherent in the novel.

I really liked Never Let Me Go, also by Ishiguro. I was not as taken by When We Were Orphans, another book I read by this author last year. Remains of the Day ranks with Marilyn Robinson’s Gilead as a novel of reminiscence, of confronting old age and lost dreams, and of assessing one’s legacy at the end of a long life. What if you spend your life in well-meaning and faithful service to a cause that turns out to be unworthy, even fraudulent?

Mr Stevens on dignity: “I suspect it comes down to not removing one’s clothing in public.”

What would he think of the internet and blogging?

Mr. Stevens in accepting an apology: “I am happy to assure you, sir, that I was not unduly inconvenienced.”

Warning: Not much happens in this novel. Mr. Stevens goes motoring. Mr. Stevens runs out of gasoline. Mr. Stevens has tea with an old friend and co-worker. Mr. Stevens reminisces. But there’s a richness there, nevertheless, that well repaid me for my time spent reading.

7 thoughts on “Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. One of my absolute favourite movies – I haven’t read the book yet. That’s unusual for me – I most often read the book and then get disappointed in the movie. There is nuance, self-deception and a heavy dose of melancholy in the movie but how it compares to the book I can’t say. However, it is worth watching the movie just to see Anthony Hopkins – he is superb!

  2. I recently finished this book, too, and it was also my 3rd by Ishiguro. He is an author I will be continuing to read, although I don’t have any specific titles lined up right now. I had no idea there was a movie…my local movie rental store is too full of Pirates of the Caribbean and zombie films.

  3. Amy

    I love this movie, but I tend to like movies in which nothing really happens. I need to read the book, I see.

  4. This was an excellent book, but I can’t say I “loved” it. I took it as a warning not to get so caught up in my own daily life that I miss the point of living. It was so sobering that I haven’t had the courage to read any of the author’s other works.
    I think the movie was very good, too.

  5. I enjoyed the book and I liked the movie, too.

  6. I watched the movie ages ago, and your comments confirm my desire to use this for my I author for the A-Z challenge.

  7. I absolutely loved this book too. I’d seen the movie first, which is also excellent, though the two are masterpieces in their own ways. Thanks for the discerning review, and for the other titles by this author.

    (I think I have my comment difficulties worked out, by the way. If I click on ‘get a new challenge,’ the little box appears for me to type in. The audio challenge works too, but it gives me the creeps…:-)

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