Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Published in Uk by Faber and Faber Ltd; 1989
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Japan but moved to England at the age of 6. He later studied at the University of Kent. The Remains of the Day was his third novel and won the Booker Prize in 1989. Ishiguro has also written two screen plays for channel 4.
The Remains of the Day is written from the perspective of Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall. It begins in 1956 with the protagonist deliberating about whether to go on a trip to visit the old housekeeper and his ex-colleague; Miss Kenton. The novel ends with them meeting up in Cornwall, having spanned 20 years.
The story is about the private agonies of a man to whom propriety and dignity are the most prized attributes. It is about how his efforts to uphold these characteristics and his loyalty to his employer; Lord Darlington lead to a thwarted life, in which he becomes his own worst enemy. During his professional years at Darlington Hall, Stevens barely reacts to his father's death and is eventually enlightened to the fact that his master has lead the country to disgrace with his affiliations to the Nazi party and his antisemitism. It is not a political novel, this subplot merely serves to deepen the resonance of Steven's clouded outlook, thanks to his conscientious subservience.
It becomes clear to the reader that he loves Miss Kenton but chapter after chapter become about his desperate attempt to hold back his feelings, through projection and denial. It is quite painful to read in parts, and as a Guardian writer notes; it may be that only the British would have the patience to grapple with a protagonist who takes four decades to fail to declare his feelings! It also seems that Miss Kenton would have preferred to have married Stevens, over her actual choice of husband.
Although L absolutely love his name, I wouldn't necessarily look to read another of Kazuo's books tomorrow, but I enjoyed this story, partly because it was refreshing to dive into a very British social landscape and partly because I like books that explore their characters deeply. I felt it was such a sensitive and delicate read and could identify with the protagonist's struggle to keep a lid on his emotions!