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on 30 January 2001
This book has the ability not only to make you feel deeply moved by its main protagonists but to re-evaluate your own life, relationships and values. It explores the break down in communications between individuals of "opposite" sex, social class and nationality and the pressure to conform to moral, social and political standards at the expense of natural feelings. The hero Stevens, a butler, represses his feelings so much that he cannot or will not admit his attraction to housekeeper Miss Kenton. His obsession with the "role" of butler and archaic notion of "Dignity" creates a barrier between them which neither is able to break down. The frustration for the reader is that the truth is there so plain to see, narrated by Stevens himself, and there are many opportunities for them to connect; when Steven's father dies; when Miss Kenton receives a proposal of marriage, but the hard shell of reserve the butler builds around himself never cracks. Tradition and reputation remain more important than his happiness. Meanwhile this small drama is played out against the backdrop of the British government appeasement of Hitler's burgeoning German Nazi party just before WWII, where, paralleling the difficulties in communication within the domestic staff, His Lordship tries to bring European leaders together for the best, but misguided, reasons. There are so many powerful episodes and touching scenes - when Stevens' demeanour causes him to be mistaken for His Lordship, when he is asked to his embarassment to explain the facts of life to His Lordship's betrothed nephew and when he is quizzed by one of his employer's politician guests as a representative sample of the working classes. Each of these confirm that he is a dying breed of dinosaur from a feudal age, an unquestioning and naive bond slave in a world turned sour and cynical and how ineffectual as a human being. As storm clouds gather over Europe, political lies and intrigue mirror the confusion in Stevens' household and relationships and both he and his employer ultimately and tragically suffer from an inability to recognise the truth. Behind the facade of dignified gentility, and a veneer of unwavering formality, the inner turmoil within the political arena, the house, the staff and Steven's own conscience make this an intense and absorbing read on many levels. He is an intensely maddening and yet touchingly likeable character. Absolutely fascinating and totally realistic. A top ten novel of the 20th century.
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on 12 November 2001
This must be the most desperately sad and beautiful book that I have ever read. I was absolutly hooked from the first page right until the end, and even found myself crying once i had finished.
It is a story of hopelessness, a journey of self discovery and a love story, told simply. At the end, you are both exasperated with the narrator as well as desperately sorry for him.
an exquiste read
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on 25 March 2006
Like all of Ishiguro's novels the book requires some stamina and thought, but what evolves from this is perhaps one of the most rewarding literary experiences you are likely to find. Indeed, the book should be classified as fiction, though would not be out of place in the 'personal development' section of your local bookstore, for if ever there was a book that so painfully portrays how we should not live our lives, The Remains of the Day is it. It is stiff-upper-lip all the way as Stevens the butler narrates his way through years of service to a fascist Lord Darlington. His aim is to achieve 'dignity' in his role to the point where service is the be all and end all of his life, putting work before everything; his own health, the death of his father, and most frustratingly, the mutual attraction with Miss Kenton. Everything in the book is so brutally real and tragic, nobody gets killed, there is no violence or bad language, just the memoirs of a lonely man who somehow has to come to terms with the mistakes he has made in his life. Is there anything more tragic than a life half-lived? It is a sublime book, make time for it and it will stay with you for a very long time.
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on 9 April 2007
I bought this book a long while ago for a reason I don't remember, it must have been a recommendation, but it has been sitting on my bookshelf ever since. The other day I was looking for something to read and I went for The Remains of the Day. This book is a masterpiece. Beautifully written with intriguing characters I could have started this book over the moment I finished the last page. What I find most interesting is how the emotions of the repressed central character Stevens are only revealed by others reaction to him, he remains stoic and "dignified" to the end, despite ultimately coming realise he has wasted his life serving the misguided Lord Darlington. Kazuo Ishiguro has the most amazing grasp of the upstairs/downstairs England of yesteryear and I cannot recommend this beautiful and moving novel highly enough - fully deserving of its Booker Prize (not something to be said about them all!)
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on 5 May 2003
The Remains of the Day is brilliant. Kazuo Ishiguro's ability to portray characters realistically is unsurpassed, and the fading world of the protagonists is described reverently and perfectly.
An aging English butler called Stevens sets off on a quiet motoring tour of Devon in the late 1950s. As he drives leisurely through the English countryside, he muses on times past and the exact nature of 'greatness', a quality which he has strived to attain all his life.
Stevens is perhaps one of the most distinctive characters that I have encountered during my reading life. He is the perfectionist to end all perfectionists, but his demands for everything to be correct are as stringent on himself as they are when he is supervising the rest of the dwindling staff at Darlington Hall. He is devoted to his work and does not let anything-or anyone-shake off his persona of efficiency and manners. This means that he hides his real emotions for most of the book, and is reluctant even to reveal them to the reader. His new master, an American, is fond of making jokey remarks to Stevens which would be unheard of when he was serving Lord Darlington and seem to shock him. His faltering attempts to make light bantering conversation add a touch of gentle humour to what is essentially a rather sad story.
Overall, The Remains Of The Day is a superbly crafted book, with all the plot's undertones of politics, romance, patriotism, etiquette and 'greatness' perfectly managed. One of the best passages has to be where Stevens explains why the English landscape is one of the world's greatest, and if you've ever visited Devon, even in this age of motorways and housing estates, you will see what he means. This book is really one of the best I've ever read, and the 1989 Booker Prize is well deserved. A true, beautiful classic.
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on 4 June 2004
Other reviewers have already explained the plot behind the book very nicely, so I will only add that in terms of writing, this is as good as it gets. It also goes to show that you don't have to have a prodigious vocabulary a la Will Self (not to knock him, but he is the perfect example of this) to create a work of art. This book is written in fairly simple language, but the language is used so elegantly that it is much more of a pleasure to read than certain other authors who seem to feel that the only way to impress their readers is to baffle them. I find that Ishiguro's other novels, while all brilliant in their own right, do not quite match up to this quite superb novel (although this is like saying that Van Gogh never quite equalled "Sunflowers").
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on 6 July 2006
It's amazing that it is a Japanese writer who has written a novel which portrays the essence of Englishness. It reads extremely well and the first person narration is a wonderful device, resulting in a lot of irony and self-delusion. The butler who narrates the entire story is an amazing creation, he totally gets on my nerves, but I think this is how Ishiguro intended the reader to respond. He is not a man without faults no matter how hard he tries to convince himself otherwise, and Ishiguro creates a wonderful contrast between what he says and what the reader thinks of him. If you're looking for a novel which explores character, memory and nostalgia, this will be the perfect read.
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on 16 August 2001
With the greatest books one falls short of speech -- for the simple reason that any attempt to describe the book, or what one is made to feel through it, not only at the content but at the sheer artistry so evident in every detail, rings loud in one's ears as an unkempt, undisciplined attempt to paraphrase something so exquisitely unparaphrasable.
This is such a book. And the book's beauty and greatness is not just the plot, or about style, as so many stories now are; story and storytelling are fused so perfectly and intimately into one that one is simply swept away from the very first line, through the intricately-layered memories of Stevens peeling selectively off one by one, through the forgetfulness of old age and of denial, into a dawning consciousness of all that he does not say. And the multiple resonances slowly, beautifully break your heart.
This is what the best writing is about. And for any sensitive reader -- the book is effortless to read -- the joy of this book is, quite literally, unspeakable.
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on 16 July 2005
For me this is literary perfection. Like most of Ishiguros books there is not really a story that specifically goes anywhere, but that is not the point. The book is about people and human relationships and as with all his books the characters are incredibly well developed.
The book follows the life of a butler (Mr. Stephens) and his incredibly dedicated work at Darlington Hall. His relationship with a housekeeper (Miss Kenton) is fascinating demonstrating incredibly poor inerpersonal skills on his behalf. It is a fantastic description of a man who has given his life entirely over to duty as opposed to life and whilst Stephens comes over as cold, you can't help but feel for him.
Ishiguros skills at describing emotions are greater than anybody else writing at the present time and this is him at the height of his skills.
Tragically my writing skills are not so great and it's not possible for me to capture just how wonderful this book is. I just urge everybody to read this - it is amazing.
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on 4 March 2006
I found this book a bit difficult to get into, a little wordy and the political side a little confusing. But the human aspects of the book I thought were very well done ... the relationship between the main character and Miss Kenton was so real. Some of the ideas about 'dignity' and 'loyalty' got me thinking about my own life and my own values and I think if a book approx 250 pages long can do that, it deserves a read.
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