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on 13 September 2017
I was a bit put off by the fact that this had won the Booker Prize, but I shouldn't have been - I really enjoyed it. I was able to immerse myself in the story at once without being conscious of the author trying to impress. The writing is amazing - very atmospheric and convincing, allowing me to 'be' there with the characters, and also very understated, with a lovely subtle humour. Very moving and also page-turny in a way I hadn't expected. Really cared about the characters by the end. The way things are revealed is very clever.

This is one I can imagine re-reading. I find myself thinking about it still, which is always a good sign. Definitely five stars!
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on 24 November 2014
This is a combination of Jeeves (P.G.Wodehouse) and In Search of England (H.V.Morton). I don't think it is as successful as either although to win the Booker is no mean feat. The humour is a lot drier than Wodehouse and the description of England a good deal skimpier than Morton. Where it scores is the intimate description of the role of the Butler in a grand house and his relationship with the other "below stairs" staff plus the inevitable decline in the role of full-time servants following the 1st World War. Some of the imagined conferences that took place are interesting but, although based on historical fact, do not really add much to anyone who knows just a little history.

There is a theme going through the book of the philosophy of what it takes to be a Great Butler. Stevens, the central character, clearly fails in this by his own standards and, although he imagines that he was nearly Great in his heyday he sadly ends up by denying his former employer and admitting his errors.

Entwined through the book is a motoring journey that he takes in search of an old colleague for whom he clearly has romantic feelings, I will not tell you the outcome!
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This heart-breakingly understated novel of duty and emotional reserve is Kazuo Ishiguro's most accomplished novel.

To any writer, "The Remains Of The Day" is a masterclass in narration. The narrator, known only as Mr Stevens, tells us his story in his own words. He prides himself on his command of language and on his felicity of phrasing; and yet, the story he tells us is quite different from the story he thinks he is telling. Hardly a sentence in this wonderful novel is devoid of resonances, and what appears to be the saga of successful careers and heroic characters actually turns out to be a portrait of self-delusion, the saddest failures and of wasted lives.

Deeply moving, and yet life-enhancing, this is a wonderful book. Despite the tragic elements, a current of almost Wodehousian humour prevents it from being anything other than a delight throughout.

An unlikely masterpiece. Highly recommended.
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on 7 July 2014
this is a subtle and clever book which paints an utterly convincing picture of two people who almost find love together but the impetuosity of one is never destined to overcome the hidebound and duty heavy nature of the other.

Some of the scenes are truly memorable especially those between Stevens and his father and there are interesting historical glimpses of the German appeasement via Ribbentrop and the book is close to being wonderful

I feel that the debate about the nature of honour and dignity along with the detailed discussion of the Butler's society are too drawn out and make a slow paced book almost come to a halt in parts.this is the main reason I cannot give it the highest rating although it will linger long in the memory.
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on 21 March 2015
A gentle read and a sad story of a butler who has been devoted to his job and now looks back on his life. It has a hopeful ending if not the hoped for ending?? I think it helped that I had seen the film first (unusually) as I think it would have been harder to sympathise with the characters without the visual aid of Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins! Many characters come and go and some I would have liked to have spent longer with but that is the nature of the book and life as a butler I suppose.
I enjoyed it but it would not be everybody's cup of tea. It is not exciting or fast paced.
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2011
In 1956 Stevens, an ageing English butler, takes a road trip to visit and ex-housekeeper who married and moved to Cornwall. Through a series of flashbacks he recounts his life in the service of Lord Darlington. He is proud of the position he has achieved and is convinced that loyalty to his employer is paramount. His employer's wishes must always be acted upon - as it is clear to him that Lord Darlington (and his ilk) must know best. It is not the role of an employee to challenge his betters. So he seems to carry out the dismissal of two Jewish housemaids with little regret. He stresses the importance of dignity but his definition of dignity is to remain calm and unruffled in all circumstances. His priority is his job - so he continues to serve drinks to Lord Darlington and his political allies as his father lies dying in a room above.

He has adopted a very narrow view of the world: "a butler's duty is to provide good service. It is not to meddle in the great affairs of the nation." But his attitude has destroyed his own humanity and ability to communicate meaningfully with others. Only in the last few pages does he seem to gain some insight into his own life.

This is a multi-layered book with references to politics, class, family and friendship. Now and again the lucky reader comes across a perfectly constructed novel - strong characterisations, superb plotting and exquisite prose. The Remains of the Day is one such novel.

A modern classic.
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After immersing myself in two of Ishiguro's masterpieces lately, Never Let Me Go and the Artist of the Floating World, I realized I had never read this book, even though one of my favorite movies was based on it.

Yet again, Ishiguro makes use of the fickle processes of memory recall, giving his book a very familiar and organic feel. Events unfold like yellowed notes dropping haphazardly from old books as one pulls them from their shelves on a lazy afternoon.

James Stevens, butler to Darlington Hall, is on a slow motor-trip towards the West country hoping for a second chance to make up for a life wasted on misplaced trust. During this trip he reminisces on the events up to that point and comes to realize that striving to be "possessed of a dignity in keeping with one's position" entailed sacrifices much greater than anticipated. At the same time, the rewards for this accomplishment are very conditional.

The book is mesmerizing and beautiful, the characters deep, their motives familiar and their decisions universally understood. Kazuo Ishiguro not only recreated the 1930's atmosphere but also a timeless character that embodies the essence of dignity - and exemplifies the irrevocable consequences of misplaced loyalty.

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on 14 August 2016
The past is constantly present in the characters daily life and determines thier actions.The butler is emotionally repressed and the housekeeper tries to help him but he is trapped in his past ,which is also his fathers past.The aristocrat features also in this book as a man who is decent and trying to stop a war with Germany, he is a man of his time ,which is between the wars , as is the butler.The writing is wonderful and keeps your interest until the end when I had tears running down.
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on 6 May 2011
Usually I like to read a book before seeing a film adaptation, but in this case I came to the book late, several years after seeing 'The Remains of the Day' on screen. It meant that the narrator and central character, the butler Stevens, arrived for me entirely in the voice and form of Anthony Hopkins. Far from this being a distraction it worked wonderfully, like having one of the world's greatest actors come to read to you personally. It also worked the other way, allowing me to appreciate even more how well Hopkins had interpreted the part.

I am aware that authors can get irritated by readers who start to talk about the film version in tandem with the book - and I have heard Ishiguro admit that it took him a while to reconcile himself to the oft-heard line 'James Ivory's Remains of the Day' - but I also know that the author admires the film a great deal and sees it not just as complementary but as a separate piece of art in its own right; exactly my sentiment.

What Ishiguro does so well is to convey nuance through voice, and that is precisely Hopkins' strength, one of the reasons he was the ideal choice for Stevens. The book, of course, allows much more scope with its use of interior monologue, often to comment on the action that he describes, and which in the film we see played out as it happens. The book structure has Stevens in the mid-1950s taking a leisurely drive across south-west England to meet up after many years with former housekeeper Miss Kenton (now married), and during the trip reflecting upon his years at Darlington Hall, his relationship with Miss Kenton and with his employer, Lord Darlington. It is a useful, fluid device that gives the author the flexibility to roam where he wants across the intervening years, to give us hints and glimpses of things that Stevens has not yet fully revealed.

One thing we learn gradually is that Stevens' employer is a Nazi sympathiser and anti-semite who has been used as a pawn by Hitler's men to try and keep Britain out of the coming World War. Darlington is not an essentially bad man but (like the butler who acts as his apologist) has a very limited world view, distorted by long-held assumptions of class, privilege and tradition. It makes both men myopic in other ways too. The callous dismissal of two faithful female servants who happen to be Jewish is one result of that affliction. For Stevens, his inability to properly recognize the love he is being offered by Miss Kenton, or to interpret for himself (never mind articulate for her) his own inner feelings, is ultimately disastrous.

'The Remains of the Day' can be seen as a political parable (the unthinking obedience of the British servant to the ruling classes has its parallel in the response of the 'ordinary' Germans to their political masters), or as an elegy on the British class system; but it is most powerful at the level of individual lives, as a love story whose tragedy is that it never got going, whose principals are left, in the remains of the day, alone in their unspoken desperation.

Reviewer David Williams maintains a regular blog as Writer in the North.
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on 27 December 2012
I am madly in love with this book! The story, the pace, the subtle and measured tones and the setting but what makes this book exceptionally special has got to be the way it is written along with the depth and dynamics of and between these unusual characters. They speak with such grace and command of the English language; it is truly exemplary in standard. They even argue or disagree with each other whilst maintaining their full respect for decency with manners and honour.

Reading the book makes me feel quite patriotic. I can't think of anything else that offers such a potent rush of 'Englishness'. I believe these are the things that make the book so personally precious to me. It's like a warm, homely place I can return to for solace whenever the big, wide open world becomes too hostile or cold towards me! The simple pleasures in life described by the narrator brings everything right back into perspective.

What I value the most about the book is the accessible style it is written in. I enjoyed 'Never Let Me Go' also but this book somehow draws you in even deeper with a more intimate angle of narration and without any unnecessary use of rare words or other gimmicks. A lot more stories could be handled better like this by focusing intently on story-telling without these often found creatively poetic sentences of jumbled words strung together which merely convolute the descriptive effect it was aiming for.

Another thing which astonishes me is that Kazuo Ishiguro neither came from an indigenous English background or was born in England yet it is the most English story I have ever read/watched. My appreciation for it is strengthened more since the historical research (I imagine) that would have went into getting this upstairs/downstairs period accurate would have been staggering.

Without a doubt it is the most subtle, touching and memorable novel I've read. I would be hugely grateful if anyone could recommend a similar story, besides an Ishiguro one.
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