The Remains of the Day

Book cover for The Remains of the Day. Background is a butler, standing facing a window. His head is invisible. There are white text block overlays with the title. The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro

Bummed the Downton Abbey crew won’t be back with anything new until, oh, forever from now? Take a motoring trip through the English countryside with Mr. Carson – erg, I mean Mr. Stevens.

Mr. Stevens’ father was a butler, and he has spent his life as a butler in a great house. However, the times they are a-changing. It is after the Second World War, and many of the large British estates have been broken apart. An upstart American, Mr. Farraday, has purchased the estate of Lord Darlington, Stevens’ former master. The staff has been reduced dramatically, and many of the rooms remain sheeted. Somehow, though, Stevens believes he might be able to reemploy Miss Kenton, a former housekeeper.

Mr. Farraday is to be absent from the estate for a time, and he gives Stevens permission to use his car for a trip to the countryside. Stevens is a bit unsure about this holiday, but decides that it is for the good of the estate that Miss Kenton come back to work. Mind you, he really doesn’t know if she is even interested. And she’s actually Mrs. Benn, and has been for quite some time. And it’s been twenty years since she worked at Darlington Hall. No matter.

Obvs, there’s something else going on here. All these repressed !feelings! Musings on how all-important dignity! trumps human connections. A scandal lurking about the good ol’ Lord Darlington.

I like how the book was written diary style, as Stevens made his way to Little Compton and Miss Kenton. I imagine that driving through the countryside for several days, with no one to take care of but yourself, would be the most time a butler like Stevens would have to be alone with his thoughts. So he ponders a lot about life – what his has been, and not been. It’s clear by the end that he has regrets, but he has put off having to think much about them. Now, towards the end of his days, when there is more time for reflection, they begin to weigh heavily on his mind. How will he process and move forward? Can he return to Darlington Hall the dignified butler that he has always been? Ishiguro leaves the reader to ponder these questions.

All in all, a beautifully written book.


5 thoughts on “The Remains of the Day

  1. We’re reading this right now for #TuesBookTalk. I’m only about fifty pages in, but I can already tell I’m doing to like it. Then I need to watch the movie–I love Anthony Hopkins.

  2. Pingback: The Classics Club | Wandering in the Stacks

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