I’ve been wanting to read The Remains of the Day for years, but can’t remember where I first heard about it. I’ve scoured my public library, overdrive, and used bookstores looking for a copy, but never had any luck. Last week I decided to just bite the bullet and buy the Kindle edition. I’ve read two other novels by Kazuo Ishiguro and loved both of them so I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed by this one.
Although a short book, it started out very slowly for me and it took over a week to read the first half (I devoured the second half in one evening because I was trying to avoid the news). And to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who hasn’t read anything by Ishiguro before because of how sluggish the book seemed.
And sluggish is an odd word to describe the novel because the main character is literally on the move during the entire book. Stevens is a butler for a grand house in England, called Darlington Hall. After the death of the Lord, the estate was bought by an American, Mr. Farraday, who wanted things to run like “the old days” and decided to keep Stevens on staff as head butler. If you’ve seen Downton Abbey, then picture Carson and you can imagine Stevens’ personality! But when Mr. Farraday leaves the country for a good chunk of time, he encourages Stevens to take his car out for a ride and enjoy himself.
Surprisingly, Stevens takes him up on his offer and travels out to meet with Miss Kenton, a housekeeper that he has kept in contact with. Throughout his journey, Stevens recalls life at the manor and how much they have changed. It’s one little story after another and I was beginning to wonder about the point of all of them. In true Ishiguro style, the meaning is made clear at the very end.
The scenery in this novel was beautiful – I could imagine myself motoring down quaint English roads and stopping in sweet little inns and meeting the villagers. I wasn’t so wild about some of the political messages I felt that Ishiguro was sending, but perhaps I misunderstood what he was trying to get across. But I did very much agree with the sentiment expressed in the book’s title – that we should embrace what remains of each our days and not live in the past or dwell on our regrets. Throughout the novel, Stevens focused on his mistakes as a butler or friend, instead of looking toward the future and learning from his past.
You might enjoy this book if you like shows like Downton Abbey or Upstairs/Downstairs, if you like reading about England during the time just before and after WWII, or if you’ve read previous Ishiguro novels and enjoyed them. I don’t think this will be everyone’s cup of tea and certainly won’t rank on my end of year reading list, but I’m glad that I read it given how curious I’ve been about it.
And how about you?! There’s a movie based on this book that I haven’t seen. Should I watch it even though I was a bit disappointed by the book? Have you recently read anything that you’ve hyped up for yourself, but then felt a little let down?