The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day

In the summer of 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper....

Title:The Remains of the Day
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Remains of the Day Reviews

  • Siria

    This is one of the most beautifully mannered, subtle books I've read in a long, long time. Ishiguro's command of prose is perfect; there was never a point where I felt that this book wasn't written by a consummate English gentleman's gentleman.

    is also one of the best examples of first person POV that I've read. Stevens' voice is always clear and distinct, and always used to frame the narrative in such a way that the reader is able to see things and guess things which the prot

    This is one of the most beautifully mannered, subtle books I've read in a long, long time. Ishiguro's command of prose is perfect; there was never a point where I felt that this book wasn't written by a consummate English gentleman's gentleman.

    is also one of the best examples of first person POV that I've read. Stevens' voice is always clear and distinct, and always used to frame the narrative in such a way that the reader is able to see things and guess things which the protagonist cannot. For all that Stevens himself agonises over 'banter' and 'wit' and how to be amusing, this book is very funny itself in some places; it's a fine example of a comedy of manners. The subtlety of it all, and Stevens often painful obliviousness to social cues really lends itself well to that. Highly, highly recommended.

  • Kecia

    It's not what happens in this story that's important, it's what doesn't happen. It's not what is said, but what is not said.

    I almost feel like Stevens in a real person and not a fictional character. He may well be the most tragic figure I've had the honor to meet/read. He tried so hard to do what he thought to be the right thing and in the end it all turned out to the wrong thing...I cried for at least a half hour after I finished the final page. It was a bittersweet moment when he admitted to h

    It's not what happens in this story that's important, it's what doesn't happen. It's not what is said, but what is not said.

    I almost feel like Stevens in a real person and not a fictional character. He may well be the most tragic figure I've had the honor to meet/read. He tried so hard to do what he thought to be the right thing and in the end it all turned out to the wrong thing...I cried for at least a half hour after I finished the final page. It was a bittersweet moment when he admitted to his heart breaking...I hurt so badly for him but for the first time he acknowledge his emotions and so I was happy for me.

    This story reminds me of why it is important to LIVE your life.

    I do hope Stevens uses the remains of his day to learn to banter and create friendships for himself. I think perhaps he will.

  • Esteban del Mal

    Kazuo Ishiguro writes the anti-haiku: instead of consciousness awakening to the immediacy of the immutable natural world, subjective memory is peeled back layer by layer to expose consciousness; instead of the joyous eruption of awareness, the tension of the gradual decompression of ignorance; instead of a humility that acknowledges the unknowable on its own terms, rambling that tries to fill the chasm of existential angst that has suddenly opened up like a sinkhole in being. Yet what his writin

    Kazuo Ishiguro writes the anti-haiku: instead of consciousness awakening to the immediacy of the immutable natural world, subjective memory is peeled back layer by layer to expose consciousness; instead of the joyous eruption of awareness, the tension of the gradual decompression of ignorance; instead of a humility that acknowledges the unknowable on its own terms, rambling that tries to fill the chasm of existential angst that has suddenly opened up like a sinkhole in being. Yet what his writing shares with the haiku is the bringing about of enlightenment -- it arrives, tarnished and the worse for wear, in the end.

    Stevens, a butler, has spent his life defining himself by his occupation. However, after having spent his best years in the service of the Nazi-sympathizing British aristocrat Lord Darlington, he necessarily grows introspective. When his new employer -- a wealthy American that is himself a signifier of the changed order of postwar Europe -- urges him to take a brief vacation, Stevens is forced to face the consequences of his life's decisions.

    Without his domestic rituals to brace him, his identity unravels. He grasps at the phantom of native British superiority which has proven illusory -- the empire lay in ruins, and the men who comprised its ruling class are a weary and incompetent bunch the likes of his previous employer. He remembers the imposing physicality of his long-dead father but is forced to see the broken man who expired waiting upon others. His threadbare philosophizing over "dignity" and what it means to his bearing and station finally collapses, and he admits his own personal failings with fellow servant Miss Kenton, who represents, fleetingly, a chance at redemption and happiness.

  • Annet

    Beautiful, beautiful book, wonderful writing, great story. I am now officially a fan of Ishiguro, a book so different from Never let me go, which was also an incredible story to me. This story however is very different but equally high quality, which in my opinion indicates the quality of the writer, able to put down totally different stories, both intriguing in their own way. It is beautiful in language, heartbreaking in storyline, gives a view of life in England in between wars and how politic

    Beautiful, beautiful book, wonderful writing, great story. I am now officially a fan of Ishiguro, a book so different from Never let me go, which was also an incredible story to me. This story however is very different but equally high quality, which in my opinion indicates the quality of the writer, able to put down totally different stories, both intriguing in their own way. It is beautiful in language, heartbreaking in storyline, gives a view of life in England in between wars and how politics also reaches an English grand house, and also gives you food for thought on what is important in your life... dignity....work... love.... anyway,beautiful book. 4,5 stars.

  • Fabian

    Mood, atmosphere, character. Encapsulation of the zeitgeist, social commentary; "The Remains of the Day" delves into the dark side of humanity. So much is held within the pages of this marvelous book, the account of one of the last butlers to work at a large manor in England. What is Dignity? seems to be the major thread that unites all of his different experiences of becoming a largely marginalized person, of becoming someone with a worth different from others. The love story is heart wrenching

    Mood, atmosphere, character. Encapsulation of the zeitgeist, social commentary; "The Remains of the Day" delves into the dark side of humanity. So much is held within the pages of this marvelous book, the account of one of the last butlers to work at a large manor in England. What is Dignity? seems to be the major thread that unites all of his different experiences of becoming a largely marginalized person, of becoming someone with a worth different from others. The love story is heart wrenching; the level of repression is palpable.

    I do love "Never Let Me Go", & this one seems more in tune with that one than, say, the marvelous "A Pale View of Hills", or the sick/sad/strange "When We Were Orphans." "Never Let Me Go" is about the wastes of youth, while "Remains" is about a life lived fully in a restricted state that's perpetual. They are both equally sad and amazing, definitely not lite reading; serious & grave in tone and subject matter. Kazuo Ishiguro is a literary man's Man.

  • Diane

    Why did I wait so many years to read this book? It's beautiful. I loved it so much that I finished it in almost one sitting. I feel a bit like Mr. Stevens, sitting on the pier at the end of the story, wondering how his life could have been different. While Mr. Stevens is thinking of a lost love; I'm thinking of the bad books that could have been avoided if I had picked up Ishiguro instead.

    I'll keep the synopsis brief, since most of my GR friends have already read this. The story is told by Mr. S

    Why did I wait so many years to read this book? It's beautiful. I loved it so much that I finished it in almost one sitting. I feel a bit like Mr. Stevens, sitting on the pier at the end of the story, wondering how his life could have been different. While Mr. Stevens is thinking of a lost love; I'm thinking of the bad books that could have been avoided if I had picked up Ishiguro instead.

    I'll keep the synopsis brief, since most of my GR friends have already read this. The story is told by Mr. Stevens, a traditional English butler, who served under Lord Darlington for several decades. The narrative begins in 1956 with Stevens adjusting to a new master, who is an American gentleman. Stevens sets out on a car journey across England to meet with a former housekeeper, Miss Kenton. During the journey, Stevens reminisces about his pre-war experiences at Darlington Hall and his relationship with Miss Kenton. There are themes of dignity, the purpose of life, how time is spent, choosing work over love (or love over work), and what constitutes greatness. Everything is shared from Mr. Stevens' perspective, who relates his thoughts in a stream of consciousness, occasionally recounting conversations with others.

    Let me pause here to discuss a theory I have, which is that there are two kinds of readers: those who like stream-of-consciousness narrative and those who don't. I am firmly in the former camp, but I've heard several readers say they loathe SOC. The structure of "Remains of the Day" reminded me of another book that I loved: Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." Both involved SOC narration, both stories take place over only a few days, and both had themes of lost time.

    I liked the movie version of "Remains of the Day," but the text moved me even more. I desperately wanted to shake Mr. Stevens and try to get him to wake up to his present life, instead of being so consumed by his profession. Of course, Miss Kenton tries to do this several times — she brings him flowers, she teases him about a romance book he's reading, she tries to comfort him when his father dies — but Stevens is so obsessed with being dignified and restraining his emotions that he can't break free.

    Because this story is so well-known, I think I can share a favorite passage toward the end of the book. Stevens is in a reflective mood after saying goodbye to Miss Kenton; he's sitting on the pier and is chatting with a stranger:

    "Lord Darlington wasn't a bad man. He wasn't a bad man at all. And at least he had the privilege of being able to say at the end of his life that he made his own mistakes. His lordship was a courageous man. He chose a certain path in life, it proved to be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see, I

    I trusted in his lordship's wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can't even say I made my own mistakes. Really — one has to ask oneself — what dignity is there in that?"

    My dear Mr. Stevens, I shall remember your story and will keep it on my bookshelf. I'm sure our paths will cross again.

    I decided to reread this novel after Mr. Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I'm so glad I did. This time I listened to it on audio, performed by Simon Prebble, and it was a wonderful experience. This is still a 5-star book for me. Highly recommended.

  • Adina

    Just announced as Winner of the Nobel Prize 2017!!! Well deserved.

    ***

    Every day, for the past week I've encouraged myself to start writing this review. It feelt impossible to find my words to discuss such a literary masterpiece. Who gives me the right to even try?

    After staring blankly at the screen for some time, I finally remembered a beautiful passage that can perfectly describe what I felt about this novel. So, I will let the author describe his work. Although the quote depicts the magnifice

    Just announced as Winner of the Nobel Prize 2017!!! Well deserved.

    ***

    Every day, for the past week I've encouraged myself to start writing this review. It feelt impossible to find my words to discuss such a literary masterpiece. Who gives me the right to even try?

    After staring blankly at the screen for some time, I finally remembered a beautiful passage that can perfectly describe what I felt about this novel. So, I will let the author describe his work. Although the quote depicts the magnificent English countryside It can be applied to the novel as well.

    I believe that a restrained beauty is what characterizes The Remains of the Day and the voice of its main character, Stevens. As it was also the case in Never let me Go, the message is hidden in the beautiful pages, only suggested, it comes to the reader in the form of a knot in the stomach or throat and the feelings linger for many days while one ponders on the meaning of his/her life.

    Williams Stevens is a one of the few remaining “great”, devoted butlers, employed most of his life at Darlington Hall in the service of Lord Darlington. After the war and the death of its owner the manor changes its ownership but the reduced staff remains with the new employer, an American known as Mr. Farraday. When the new owner returns to the States for a few weeks he proposes to Stevens to borrow his car and enjoy a drive in the countryside. Although reluctant at first, the butler decides to take on the offer after he receives a letter from a former housekeeper of the Hall, Miss Kenton to who it seems that he holds some affection. He decides to visit her in order to suggest to return to work at the Hall. The trip becomes the perfect occasion for revisiting the most important moments of Stevens past and to meditate on how his loyalty to his master and his decisions/or lack of, made him lose certain opportunities to have a fulfilled emotional life.

    The language used by the author is beautiful, exquisite. It is the voice of the butler who writes in the restrained, formal manner suitable for his job. The effect is mesmerizing, sometimes comical and other times heartbreaking in Steven’s incapacity to shed his role even for a second and live for himself.

    Beautiful, emotional book that I warmly recommend to everyone.

  • Nataliya

    I suppose what one really needs at the end of it all, in the twilight of life, is to know that it was worth something, that there was some meaning, some purpose to it. Because if it was all in vain, why even try?

    With

    Kazuo Ishiguro created a masterpiece, mesmerizing, evocative, subtle, elegant and perfectly crafted, with precise mastery of language, setting an

    I suppose what one really needs at the end of it all, in the twilight of life, is to know that it was worth something, that there was some meaning, some purpose to it. Because if it was all in vain, why even try?

    With

    Kazuo Ishiguro created a masterpiece, mesmerizing, evocative, subtle, elegant and perfectly crafted, with precise mastery of language, setting and characters. At its heart, it's a story of searching for something irrevocably lost in life, a story of memory and its elusive unreliability. It's beautiful and haunting, with initial rose-tinged glow of nostalgia slowly and subtly morphing into quiet gentle regret, managing to coexist with dry humor and bits of satire. It's a book of uncommon quality, one that's impossible to forget, one that deserves every ounce of praise that's it's been showered with.

    What is dignity? What is greatness? How do you define your purpose? These are questions Stevens - a quintessential English butler at the twilight of his life not surprisingly coinciding with the twilight of the British Empire - ponders during his drive through the countryside in the search of an old friend, a former housekeeper who, Stevens thinks, would make a great addition to the dwindled staff of a once-great manor now owned by a rich American after the death of its former aristocratic owner, the Lord in whose employ Stevens had faithfully spent several decades. To Stevens, the answers are initially clear - the purpose and satisfaction, the all-elusive dignity itself lies in the unquestionable loyalty and devotion to the great ones of this world, by association with whom you matter, too. But as the miles roll by, the pull of Darlington Hall seems to lessen and bit by bit, flashback by flashback in a surprisingly formal stream of consciousness the glimpses of the truth begin to appear, and how unsettling they are! Bit by bit, mostly not through what he tells us but instead precisely through what he does not tell we come to see that poor Stevens is perhaps the most unreliable narrator there ever was.

    Starting from a formal, stiff but still confident narration at the beginning of Stevens' journey, we end up eventually on a bench on a pier, glimpsing into his very private pain and heartbreak as he contemplates the remains of his life at the titular remains of the day. Bit by bit, through at times reluctant, limited and yet unfailingly honest narration we get to experience the story of a man who put loyalty and faithful service above all, pursuing the coveted dignity, clinging to the well-defined class roles and rigid expectations, denying his own self in attempts to live up to the duty, the quintessential Englishness that already in his time is becoming obsolete.

    Stevens, the most unreliable narrator, manages to show us so much more precisely through the things that he fails to tell the reader. It's what's left unsaid that paints the real picture - the disappointments, the loss, the lonely empty existence intentionally devoid of love and warmth.

    Stevens in his earnest devotion remains loyal to the memory of Lord Darlington, never fully admitting that the man he had spent his life serving and admiring was in fact not so great. And how can he? After all, he has based his entire self-worth, his entire sense of being on devotedly serving a supposedly great and noble man, feeling that in some little way he, Stevens, had something to do with shaping the fate of the world. Openly admitting that Lord Darlington's made huge mistakes would shatter Stevens' entire self, making everything useless - missing his father's death, going along with bigotry and prejudice, and giving up a chance at love, warmth and human companionship.

    And yet, at the end, just for a moment or so the impeccable facade of quintessential English butler cracks and a pained confused man faces the realizations that are too unsettling to avoid:

    is a book of loss and love and regret, of things that define us and shape us, about trust and loyalty misplaced and hopes and dreams crushed, of selective memory and carefully constructed in self-defense universes that let us try to be what we aspire to be, and the cold brush with reality that inevitably comes. To borrow Stevens' pained unexpected revelation,

    Wonderful. 5 stars.

  • Perry

    Glad Ishiguro Won Nobel in Lit. This Novel is in My Top 3 of All Time. Most Profound.

    "The Recall to Affection," Susanna Blamire

    "Yesterday," Lennon-McCartney, 1965

    It is nearly impossible to describe this novel without at least alluding (as I do above) to one of the very most heartbreaking scenes in all

    Glad Ishiguro Won Nobel in Lit. This Novel is in My Top 3 of All Time. Most Profound.

    "The Recall to Affection," Susanna Blamire

    "Yesterday," Lennon-McCartney, 1965

    It is nearly impossible to describe this novel without at least alluding (as I do above) to one of the very most heartbreaking scenes in all of literature.

    Ishiguro's novel whisks the human memory - its capacity, reliability, fallibility and combustibility. As the story moves forward, he drops clues to the murkiness of the manservant narrator Stevens' recollections of decades in service at Darlington Hall and his relationship with the head maid, Ms. Kenton. At the start, wispy cirrus clouds veil azure memories, then Ishiguro progressively builds darkly colossal columns of cumulus to breach the buttressed heart.

    I cannot say more without revealing a spoiler. I can say this exceptionally profound novel is unrivaled in illuminating, and "getting through to the reader" on, two themes that are potentially life-changing for most every reader:

    1) the heartbreaking nature of reflecting and

    and, conversely,

    2) the more crucial realization that one should look

    for the crucial and precious moments in and of

    , and should make every effort to sort out a relationship in one's life and endeavor to remedy misunderstandings with others. Indeed, we lose sight of the fact (particularly when we're young) that there are NOT a never-ending number of days and one should not wait for tomorrow, at which point today will be one more yesterday:

    ” Virgil

    What more could one ask of a piece of literature than the opportunity for enlightenment and this moral that we should wake up, listen to the heart and, by all means, follow it. Today (or as soon as practicably possible).

    This novel made me recall a quote I saw years ago in school: "[i]n the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." M.J. Adler

  • Bookdragon Sean

    So Ishiguro has won the noble prize for literature 2017. This quote from the yeasterday's guardian

    says it all to me:

    [...]

    So Ishiguro has won the noble prize for literature 2017. This quote from the yeasterday's guardian

    says it all to me:

    [...]

    Ishiguro is good, and this book is very good. It totally deserved the man booker prize, but did Ishiguro

    deserve the noble prize for literature? Food for thought.

    ************************************

    This was phenomenal. Ishiguro has such a developed way of exploring consciousness, the power of repression, self-serving denial and the destructive consequences of regret.

    The narrator of this is a stiffly rigid and rather dry old butler. He has given everything over to his profession; he has left little room for his own personality to develop. The character(s) he emulates are a mere representation of his employer’s needs; he behaves in a way that he thinks they wish him to: he creates a persona to suit each one. So, there is very little left of the individual left on the surface. He is simply is professional butler modelled round his current employers own characteristics. What he so desperately needed was an awakening: he so desperately needed to come out of himself and remember exactly who he is under the false layers of pomp and sophisticated etiquette. But, that would be impossible in its entirety.

    It takes Stevenson a long time even remember who he is. He goes on a journey of remembrances, and through this he eventually sees the parallels between his own fate and that of his father’s; he realises that he, too, is getting too old for his job. But, he must delve even deeper into the past to fully remember himself. He must see deeper into the regretful decisions he has made, though he can never fully acknowledge such regret because to do so would be to destroy himself, rendering an entire life meaningless, worthless and wasted. He has spent his entire professional life behind a mask. He has no real friends, and his relationship with his farther is strained, to say the least. There are a few moments when the veil slips; however, they are not really visible to other characters. I think at times, this has gone so far that, Stevenson actually forgets who he is. The mask takes over and controls his behaviour; there is little room for sentiment or friendship: it pushes people away with its austere act of singular professionalism.

    Unfortunately for Stevens he continues to wear this mask. It’s led to all of these bad feelings, and a life of servitude. Indeed, he becomes like his farther. He is stuck in this perpetual state. His brief holiday sends all his memories crashing back; he sees the different paths he could have taken had he been more open to his own desires. There are degrees of regret within his story, but he cannot full let go; he cannot fully admit that he wishes he had lived his own life. He has gone too far to simply change his ways. If he changed now, his life would have been a waste. He must continue on this road, one that will not allow him to enjoy the remains of his days.

    This is a sad novel; it depicts a character that is so unbelievably stubborn that he prevents himself from receiving any regeneration or redemption. He cannot change, and this is his doom. He is frustrating and stoic. He is a nonchalant man who simply refuses to acknowledge his own feelings. As a character he is superbly written, but on an individual level I found him somewhat pitiable. This is part of the wonder of the story, though. Stevens is his role; he will never transgress it. I just felt so sorry for him because he really has had a wasted life; yes, he has had a successful career; yes, he has met some prestigious political figures and foreign dignitaries; yes, he believes he is accomplished and successful, but, at the route of things, he is undeniably woeful and lonely. These are simply the excuses he tells himself. He has missed out on friendship and love: he has only experienced solitude and isolation.

    In this, Ishiguro delivers an awe inspiringly powerful statement in regards to the dangers of a life of pretending. This was moving, compelling and excellent. This won’t be the last Ishiguro novel I read. I’m literally amazed at how good this book was.


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