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The Remains of the Day (FF Classics) Open Market Edition - FF Classice (Export), Kindle Edition
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Audio CD, Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available*
WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
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.
'A triumph . . . This wholly convincing portrait of a human life unweaving before your eyes is inventive and absorbing, by turns funny, absurd and ultimately very moving.' Sunday Times
'A dream of a book: a beguiling comedy of manners that evolves almost magically into a profound and heart-rending study of personality, class and culture.' New York TImes Book Review
About the Author
From the Back Cover
- ASIN : B002RI9YE6
- Publisher : Faber & Faber; Open Market Edition - FF Classice (Export) (8 January 2009)
- Language : English
- File size : 1295 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 258 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 3,257 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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What a beautiful story. And with so many morals to heed in our own lives.
Stevens is an endearing loyal butler to Lord Darlington and lives his life abiding by strict and unwavering morals and values...especially the personal trait he values more than any other...true dignity, which he carries out with the utmost importance.
While his staunchness is something for others to behold and admire...he finds it ultimately costs him dearly in some facets of his life.
Some of Stevens’ thoughts and some passages in this book made me feel quite emotional and had me thinking back and reminiscing these days,about long forgotten manners,loyalty, respect ....and indeed dignity.
A wonderful book.
Stevens, a stiff-upper-lipped, mask-faced, duty-bound butler served Lord Darlington of Darlington Hall between WW1 and WW2. After the death of Darlington, the property passed into the hands of a rich American. Times were changing, indeed!.
Now, in his older years, Stevens reflects on his life. One of his contemplations sees him visiting, Miss Kenton, a housekeeper he previously worked with and grew to care for. During the journey and his visit, readers are slowly exposed to the unpacking of snippets of information that portray Stevens' character and life choices. These small pieces gather to reveal major issues and fallibilities. On the surface, Stevens' tied-up efforts to express his feelings to Miss Kenton seem amusing, but instead they're chokingly sad.
Does it sound dry and uninteresting? Actually, it's not! The Remains of the Day is a Booker Prize winner, so that has to carry some merit. In my opinion, the book is brilliantly written and has all the other elements of good writing present, too (including, plot, character development, pacing and imagery).
Ishiguro's subtle writing style and choice of themes may not be for everyone (he tends to write in a beautiful, poignant, but careful style that focuses on people's weaknesses and failures rather than their successes). However, he is a master story-teller which, for me, is the attraction.
Top reviews from other countries
In The Remains of the Day, Stevens takes respite from his butler’s duty to undertake a short excursion into West Country to visit Miss Kenton, a woman who once worked with him as Lord Darlington’s housekeeper. On his travels, he reminisces about his life dedicated to serving his master, proudly and faithfully and, somewhat on the margin, about the ups and downs of his volatile relations with Miss Kenton, about his father and about tiny life in the grander scheme of things.
The mastery of this book lies in how Ishiguro manages to superimpose Stevens’s ordinary, little-man’s life onto the bigger picture of the malfunctioning class system and the politics of appeasement preceding the outbreak of WW2. Or perhaps, it is the wheel of history that is superimposed on Stevens’s life. The distinction isn’t clear. None of them seem to be favoured by the author as more significant. Stevens narrates the story and to him the detail of everyday etiquette and silver-polishing is equally important as Lord Darlington’s anti-Semitic antics and top-secret meetings with influential politicians. Stevens’s loyalty is to his job. It takes precedence of his own father, over his undoubtedly deep but supressed feelings for Miss Kenton and over his better judgment in relation to Lord Darlington’s treacherous politics.
Ishiguro has captured Stevens perfectly: through his tone, his language, his actions. Stevens is more aristocratic than the lords he is serving; he is more dignified, more stiff-upper-lip. His little holiday exposes him to the world at large and the reader watches him squirm on the hook of the unwelcome reality from which he has been detached for the best part of his life. Yet, despite his aloofness and dogged devotion to a rotten aristocrat, one finds him very human, very fallible and very worthy of having his own say before the day is up.
The story begins with an English butler, Stevens, who worked in a stately mansion owned by Lord Darlington, in whose home various powerful and reputable political figures has graced with covert meetings leading up to the Second World War. That Stevens had been and still is a capable and loyal butler becomes evident through his unremitting service, which he recounts in first person, even as he takes on a motorcar journey to Little Compton, Cornwall, in response to a letter he receives from his former colleague and housekeeper, Miss Kenton, when she left Darlington Hall some twenty years ago. They had shared a volatile working relationship during Lord Darlington's heyday.
And that is where the real story lies, which is almost obscured by Stevens's doddering and often self-censoring narrative, where he edits and revises along the way, seemingly unsure of what had really happened. He admits as much when he says, "But now, having thought further, I believe I may have been a little confused about this matter", when he tries to recall an occasion when he had caught Miss Kenton in a vulnerable state. He often turns preachy about his profession, and reiterates the importance of dignity ad nauseam, but through it all, the reader begins to realise that the more he elaborates, the more he hides, and in the end, he says more than he knows. That Ishiguro elicits our sympathy rather than annoyance with his unreliable narrator is truly a work of genius, because, given the qualities I had observed above about Stevens, that is no mean feat.
Stevens's unreserved dedication to his work means an inordinate amount of sacrifice, so much so that he has to give up all personal feelings and attachments, and this is something that hits the reader hard when a personal tragedy befalls him in the midst of an important event at Darlington Hall and he keeps at his task, without flinching. Throughout his narrative too, he keeps an objective, almost clinical tone, sometimes infuriating the reader for his lack of emotion, so that when he finally relents, "Indeed - why should I not admit it? - at that moment, my heart was breaking", you want to hug the poor old man and weep yourself, only to recognise that frustrating reserve in needing to convince himself that it was alright to acknowledge his true feelings, and that it would ultimately be shortlived.
Prior to Vulcan Dr Spock of the USS Enterprise, who was devoid of human emotion and was motivated by logic, the class-ridden social cesspit of aristocratic England was populated with overlords and their underlings including the likes of butler Stevens of Darlington House, who seems almost equally lacking in human emotion and is motivated not by logic, but by what he rather delusionally refers to as "dignity".
In comparison to Kazuo's later book, The Unconsoled, this book's main character Stevens is rather more tragic. His main failing that came across to me is that he takes himself, his work and his position in the world far too seriously. Consequently one is left to feel a mixture of sadness, ridicule (at times) and yet sympathy towards him, because he is emotionally very stunted and ironically quite naive about the world unfolding out there around him.
Although this is a work of fiction, I have come across a handful of people in real life who suffer from very similar personality problems and other social disadvantages at Kazuo Ishiguro's butler Mr Stevens. Note that the kind of problems I'm talking about are definitely NOT mental illnesses, serious personality disorders, lack of IQ or developmental problems such as Autism, ADHD or suchlike.
In reading this book, it is very easy for me to imagine people like Stevens being real, especially prior to about the early 1980s. I'm sure there were many tragic cases with many similarities to butler Stevens during the early and middle years of the 20th century. I found Stevens to be a mildly delusional and rather tragic character.
Ishiguro has either/and/or a terrific imagination, has known of such people and situations, or done his research very thoroughly to capture the essence, atmosphere, time and location of isolated "Grand Houses", their owners and some of their staff in England in the 20th century.
I give this book only three stars because I feel that the main character does not develop as someone of interest in the story, and the ending, whilst typical of Kazuo Ishiguro's works, is rather disappointing from the reader's point of view with respect to the protagonist.