One of my 100 challenges to myself this year was to read a book by a Nobel Prize winner, and since Kazuo Ishiguro is the most recent recipient, I decided to make him the lucky one! I decided to listen to Remains of the Day, largely regarded as his best novel, though I’m really partial to the story of Never Let Me Go and the movie. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the introspectiveness of Remains of the Day and Steven’s character.
Here’s the Amazon blurb:
This is Kazuo Ishiguro’s profoundly compelling portrait of Stevens, the perfect butler, and of his fading, insular world in post-World War II England. Stevens, at the end of three decades of service at Darlington Hall, spending a day on a country drive, embarks as well on a journey through the past in an effort to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving the “great gentleman,” Lord Darlington. But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s “greatness,” and much graver doubts about the nature of his own life.
Not being from England and yet being weirdly fascinated with the rule of Edward VIII and manor homes, I loved Stevens as a character and a dutiful butler and yet someone who only later realized how he had been blinded by his loyalty. The tension between Stevens and Miss Kenton is what drives this narrative, and while I wish the ending had been more satisfactory, I just loved following it through. The ups and downs and unsaid things were beautifully done, and even though Stevens, as a narrator, wasn’t aware of the tension it was palpable for the reader.
Going back and forth in time can be difficult, especially with a first-person narrator, but Ishiguro does it beautifully. The diary/reflection format is contrived, obviously, but it works for this medium and lets us get the story we want in a reasonable manner. I almost wish we had this same book written from Miss Kenton’s point of view as she awaits Steven’s arrival!
This book is not for everyone, and it’s not exactly exciting, plot wise, but it’s well-writtenn and compelling and the characters are unlike anything else you’ll find in modern literature. There’s a reason Kazuo Ishiguro has a Noble Prize now.
Up next, I’ll be watching the 1993 movie which stars Anthony Hopkins as Stevens, Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton, James Fox as Lord Darlington, and even features Christopher Reeves, Hugh Grant, and Lena Headey. I’m very excited to check it out!