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on 18 November 2015
This is Ishiguro's Booker-winning work, and the novel that established his reputation as a modern realist writer to be reckoned with - a reputation that he will turn on its head with later works like "Never Let Me Go" and "The Buried Giant" that defy such strict categorisation, and with good measure.

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.
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VINE VOICEon 12 October 2017
I was prompted to read this book after the author was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature last week. This follows his being awarded an OBE for services to literature and becoming a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, both in the 1990s. This particular novel won the Booker Prize in 1989. It is very well written and the author has a wonderful and seemingly effortless command of language, which as a linguist I appreciate. Yet I also felt there was a certain coldness to the prose, reflected in the central character of the butler, Mr Stevens. His dedication to his duty towards his employer Lord Darlington is so total and his manner so stiffly formal, that he sometimes came across as just plain cold, in particular on the death of his father, who was also employed in Lord Darlington's house. The framework narrative of the novel is set in the 1950s, after Lord Darlington has died, and Stevens's new employer is an American, Mr Farraday. The latter goes away on a trip and Stevens takes a drive to the west country to seek out a former fellow employee from the 1920s and 30s, Miss Kenton. His journey however consists almost entirely of reminiscences of his life working under Lord Darlington in those decades, during which his former employer became involved in, at best naive, attempts to use his influence to bring about peace between Britain and Nazi Germany. One particular unsavoury nadir comes when Darlington sacks two Jewish housemaids merely because of their background, an order which Stevens loyally executes. The political background is interesting and Stevens's position undoubtedly awkward, but I seldom felt much sympathy for him and his outlook and world view seem very alien to the modern reader. There are passages of inadvertent humour, though, particularly in the conversations between Stevens and Miss Kenton.
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I have no idea why it has taken me so long to read this novel, despite having read most of this authors work and loved it, and yet this, deservedly, is regarded as his classic. Perhaps, subconsciously, I was afraid of being disappointed but, if so, then I am glad to say that I certainly was not. In many ways, this is classicaly understated; as English as you can possibly imagine. Stevens has spent his entire life and career in service, as a butler, with thirty five years working for Lord Darlington at Darlington Hall. When we meet him it is 1956 and the days of the aristocracy and great houses are dying out. Darlington Hall is now in the hands of Mr Farraday, an untitled American, who is a kind and thoughtful man. So thoughtful is he that, when intending to go abroad, he encourages Stevens to take a trip of his own, even offering the use of his own car. This isolated and repressed man decides to visit Miss Kenton, now Mrs Barr, the former housekeeper at Darlington Hall.

During Stevens journey, he muses on his past life. It is fair to say that Stevens has spent most of his time building barriers between himself and others. His entire reason for living has been to serve Lord Darlington, who we gradually realise is undeserving of such utter loyalty. Meanwhile, his feelings for Miss Kenton, and hers for him, are poignantly revealed. Kazuo Ishiguro is a genius of an author and much of the substance of this outstanding novel lies in what he doesn't say (or write), as much as what he does - an almost impossible task for any other author. His gentle unveiling of the absurd posturing of Stevens, his inability to deal with either his own, or others, feelings, his sad regret, and Miss Kenton's attempts to breach his defences are heart rending. This is one of the most touching, and brilliantly written, novels I have read.
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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 21 October 2017
I was compelled to read it after Ishiguro received the Nobel prize. I knew from the first few pages it was going to be a great book, the quality and emotion of the prose is spell binding, while reading I fell easily into the character of the blindly devoted butler, Stevens, who tells the story. Added to this, at pace so gentle you barley notice it, a subtle multi layered plot develops.
Other reviewers have complained the book is dull and lacking emotion, I think they have failed to understand the narrator. His whole life is dedicated to service and it is through this loyalty and non-judgmental attention to the detailed needs of his master that this genuine gentle man is able to play a role in lives of people that would normally be beyond his social standing. He is a cold pedantic man, as the narrator it does mean the prose is similarly stoic. However he is also a man capable of great understanding but sadly he lives his life through the needs of his master.
There is so much subtle detail in the plot, especially the dialogue with Miss Kenton the house keeper who tries so hard to put some feeling into Stevens's life. There is also a lot of interesting politics around the inter war years both internationally and closer to home, especially around social class. I find many great books are compromised by the ending, here the ending perfectly summarises Stevens's world view and his role in it. A sad and wonderful story which if you aren't captivated from page one probably isn't for you.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 December 2017
This is a stunning evocation of 1950's England through the recollections a a butler in a grand house. The butler, Stevens, has learned to keep his emotions so in check that he misses the key moments in his life, and the book is full of pathos for the lost opportunities. As always with Kazuo Ishiguro the writing is superb - it creates so many images in the mind's eye you can lose yourself utterly in a bygone ( thank goodness) world

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on 24 May 2015
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 2 December 2017
The story is a celebration of the English language. It describes beautifully the role of a butler, and what a butler should aspire to, including his total loyalty to his master, to the point of naïvety. As you begin to understand his master’s political views, you can appreciate what an interesting and dangerous time is unfolding in history. But largely the author allows us into the mind of a devoted butler and how his loyalty has prevented him from finding true happiness- until he is reminded that he should start appreciating that he has arrived at, what the author describes as, the remainder of his days.
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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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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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