Monday, March 9, 2015

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Reviewed by Meygan 

Downton Abbey seems to be the latest craze, so therefore I have spent some time creating bibliographies for Downton Abbey lovers! While I have yet to see the show, a fiction book listed in one of the bibliographies piqued my interest.  In The Remains of the Day, I was introduced to Stevens, a butler who served at Darlington Hall for Lord Darlington, one of the most prestigious men in England. After working for some time, Stevens takes a trip, a mini vacation in other words, across the West County. On his journey, Stevens reflects on his years as a butler and how his father was a butler was well. It was as if Stevens had it in his blood to serve others. Stevens and Miss Kenton, the head housekeeper for Darlington Hall, flirtatiously banter, even though Stevens would never classify their conversations as flirting. No, he is much too reserved and too dedicated to his work to allow himself to concentrate on anything else. 

Stevens is the epitome of someone who is so career-driven and overzealous that it is detrimental to his life. I am sure that we all know or have heard of that kind of person where work is always their first priority. Anniversary? There is paperwork to be done at the office! Romance can wait! Your child’s birthday party? They will have another one next year, right?  Yes, I believe we all can think of a fictional or non-fictional person of someone who meets this description. Stevens’ life is terribly sad. During his time spent reflecting, Stevens provides his readers his view about his important life events, all which take place at Darlington Hall, of course. It may be that he is not telling us the whole truth, but is omitting information. One of his most prominent reflections concerns the passing of his father. When Miss Kenton tells Stevens that his father is at death’s door, Stevens does stop by to see his father but doesn’t stay long because there is work to be done. 

Much of the book takes place in flashbacks to the World War II ear.  That has always been one of my favorite parts of history to read about, so perhaps this is why I was so inclined to read The Remains of the Day. Lord Darlington sympathizes with Germany. He doesn’t agree with how England has treated Germany in the Treaty of Versailles after WWI and uses his influence to try to persuade others that appeasement is the correct approach.  Not only are readers learning about Stevens and his past regrets, but Lord Darlington serves a big part in the book as well.  

The Remains of the Day was a good story. I have a difficult time reading a book where I do not agree with the protagonist, so perhaps this is why it took me a few weeks to finish Ishiguro’s novel. There were times when I wanted to slap Stevens and tell him to wake up and look at how his life is flashing before his eyes! However, Miss Kenton is my favorite character from The Remains of the Day and possibly the only reason I finished the book. Although there was a moment where I wanted to slap Miss Kenton as well (there’s a lot of slapping going on, huh?), she redeemed herself. I felt that all of the characters were well-developed, even though there were moments where I hoped Stevens would dig deeper into his past. Like Stevens, I am a future oriented person. Often that has been a good quality, but sometimes I am so focused on my future that I forget to enjoy the present. Perhaps everyone, including myself, can learn a lesson from Stevens’ story.

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