Saturday, January 14, 2023

REVIEW: The Remains of the Day (book) by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day is historical fiction. I checked my copy out from the library.


In this book's present, Stevens is a butler who has spent three decades of his life serving Lord Darlington at Darlington Hall. Lord Darlington has since died, and Darlington Hall is now owned by an American who encourages Stevens to borrow his car and take some time off. Stevens is reluctant but eventually does so, setting off on a trip to see the former Miss Kenton, now Mrs. Benn, who was once Darlington Hall's housekeeper. Throughout his trip, Stevens reminisces about his life and years of service, and thinks about how he personally defines "dignity" and what makes a good butler.

I read this for an upcoming book club meeting. It's the third work by Ishiguro that I've attempted to read and the second that I've actually finished. At this point, I hope none of his other books end up on our book club TBR. While The Remains of the Day was probably the best of Ishiguro's books that I've tried, it was also an exhausting read that I struggled to get into. The last few pages were, for me, the best and elevated the work as a whole, but had I not been reading this for my book club, I might not have made it that far.

I think this would have made a better short story, since part of the problem was that it felt like Stevens droned on forever (it reminded me of Ishiguro's The Unconsoled, but less excruciating). Maybe that was part of the point, but I still think it could have been accomplished better in a shorter format. I didn't need that many pages to understand that Stevens was an unreliable narrator, that he'd pushed his own life to a back burner in favor of serving a lord who became a Nazi sympathizer, and that he'd gotten to a point in his life where he had regrets.

I do at least think it'll make for an excellent book club discussion. It's the kind of book that makes you think about your own life, the decisions you've made, and how you'll approach the "remains of the day."

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