Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

I have had this author on my TBR for years now, probably ever since I saw the movie adaption of this book a decade ago. He’s famous for many novels, but none looked quite so interesting as this one.

The movie, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, came out in 1993 and is an absolutely beautiful film. Saying that, it’s been years since I’ve seen it, so whether it is an entirely accurate adaptation I cannot recall. It is still a great movie which I really want to watch again.

Anyway, I finally got to read the book (or, in this case, I listened to it on audiobook) and wow was I impressed!

Release: 1989

Synopsis: (from Goodreads because it sums up the story perfectly) “In the summer of 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper.”

Review

This book is beautiful to read, filled with old British traditions and still relevant political debates. Although the story is told entirely from Stevens perspective, we get a view of most every person visiting the house, from the housekeeper to the prime minister of England. Saying that, Stevens is an entirely unreliable narrator, twisting things oddly to suit his prim and proper attitude and obsessive pride. This story is more of an examination of different characters, especially of Stevens himself, against the backdrop of early 20th century England. It is also a quite serious story, so much so that I found myself getting depressed as Stevens constantly chose his job over his own happiness.

Even when his own father is dying upstairs, he is too busy waiting on the guests of his employer. Similarly, Miss Kenton, the housekeeper, was hardly subtle in trying to grow close to him, and yet he put up walls only his job could climb. It was frustrating to see how unhappy so many of the characters turned out because of their decisions in life, even if they had the noblest of motives.

But that is, as Stevens comments himself at the end, the way life works. We cannot turn back times, and redo things we regret. We can only look to the future and, as Stevens says, “make the best of what remains of my day.”

My one and main complaint about this book is that it jumps around a lot. Since it follows forty years of Stevens life, from the teens to the fifties, there are a lot of times Stevens recalls an incident without really indicating when it is. I understand that this is in his memory, and memory rarely works in chronological order, and yet that does not help the confused reader any more. I would assume an entire section was set in the 1940s only to learn much later that it was set in the 1920s. It didn’t make me dislike the story, but it did lessen my enjoyment slightly.

There is something very introspective about this book which made me question my own existence (though I am only a fraction of Stevens’s age). The idea that we are going through life, not realizing how things we push aside now will lead to unhappiness down the road. How our obsession in keeping with our beliefs and not adapting might be detrimental to our own future, and the future of those we care about.

This is the type of story which will get you thinking, and I have a feeling that is exactly what Ishiguro was aiming out.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will have to read more books by Ishiguro.

Have you read or heard of this book? Have you read any of Ishiguro’s other books? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

18 thoughts on “Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. Great review! I have had Remains of the day on my TBR for ages now and I’m definitely going to pick it up. Thankyou for this.
    Also, have you read Never Let Me Go? I’ve been told it’s not as amazing as Remains… but I found it to be a delightful read nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review. This book is a masterpiece, really. I understand that you did not like the jumping of a timeline without knowing the years, but actually in comparison to Ishiguro’s usual style of writing and his other novels, this book is the clearest and the least confusing of all his body of work. He is the author who employs the concept of memory since his debut book, and in all of his books (A Pale View of Hills, The Unconsoled etc.) characters reminisce in a very confusing and chaotic way for a reader – this can even be considered Ishiguro’s signature now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting…I didn’t know the concept of memory was Ishiguro’s signature writing style. If this book is his clearest, I’m wondering if I’ll like his other books after all. But I definitely want to read more of his novels to see if they are as good as this one. And I agree, this book is a masterpiece!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, actually, my very first book review was about Ishiguro’s debut A Pale View of Hills (my review does contain spoilers) and I tried very hard to find meaning in his debut or something of interest, some mystery, but I could not – the book was all about memory, but Ishiguro was so so subtle and so so confusing in his main message that my conclusion was that the book is pointless.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Never Let Me Go is great too. If you have not read it already I am interested in your verdict. The character reminisces there as well, looking back, and the story is not that confusing, but it is eerie.

            Liked by 1 person

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