The Remains of the Day isn’t just a book – it is a book that breathes, feels and murmurs with life. It is perhaps one of the more subtle and beautifully written books that I have read in recent years; Ishiguro has unparalleled command of the English language.
For such a quiet book, with all its melancholia and nostalgia, The Remains of the Day rendered me speechless at its end. Set in postwar England, Stevens is, what one would call, a traditional English butler, with his ideals, values, thoughts, ideas, and aspirations structured entirely by his profession. Following a suggestion by his new American employer, Stevens goes on a motoring vacation across the West Country; it is through this journey that Stevens’s character and psyche unravels through vigorous introspection, thoughtful reminiscence, and monologues with intents of self-preservation.
For what begins as just a story about a butler, The Remains of the Day grows to become so much more – it is an illumination of the past, the arousal of consciousness, the gradual realization of one’s condition, and the understated loss of one’s own life following retrospection. It is about questioning what is dignity, what makes us great, and what gives us purpose, but above all, it is about how not all values are invulnerable and may be used to hide our own vulnerabilities and faults in life. It is about being able to look back in one’s life, and finding those moments where we lived — or in times where we did not, where we sacrificed and lost, and to ultimately what end?
As much as I want to share my analysis of this novel (I took so many notes!), I read this book without knowing anything about it – pivotal, significant events included. I firmly believe that this is how the book is best read; to go in knowing naught about its characters, namely Stevens, and then to be slowly pulled head-first by its compelling narrative.
Stevens was flawlessly written; he felt so real, so complex, and being given the opportunity to understand him is a privilege in itself. By the book’s end, I felt so much sadness for Stevens, but also felt hope for him too. The aftereffects of The Remains of the Day are gentle, tinged with bittersweet, but evocative and will linger and occupy a small place in your soul. The Remains of the Day is a stunning meditation of life, and the tragedy that sometimes come with it.
Book Name: The Remains of the Day
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Publisher: Faber & Faber