Friday, December 3, 2010
"The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro
Musings: Remains of the Day is probably one of the most thoughtfully characterized book I have ever read, and in this small novel, which is almost all introspection, I found myself more engrossed than in any action book I've read.
The Remains of the Day is a quiet novel, much like Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Its strength lies in the way Ishiguro absolutely makes you believe you are listening to a real English butler named Stevens. Stevens is an absolutely convincing character, and because of this, his experiences are all the more heartbreaking. Stevens is a man who has dedicated himself to executing his profession to perfection. But this all-consuming dedication has been his biggest downfall. In seeing himself as a butler above all else, and in holding himself to expectations higher than anyone else's, he has sacrificed relationships (with his father, a housekeeper named Miss Kenton), intellectual vigor, and enjoyment of life. He has been a martyr for a cause no one but himself supports. And this is all the more sad because Stevens refuses to acknowledge it; he stubbornly defends his choices, even though it's painfully obvious to the reader that his has not truly been a life well-spent.
Stevens narrates the novel in first person, and it's easy to want to empathize with him. His dedication to his job is admirable, and he holds himself to high standards. But it's soon apparent that though Stevens is good at his job, he is not good at being human. He is inconsiderate and uncaring of others' feelings; he rejects friendly conversation, and he holds no room for human fallacy--except in the case of his employer, for whom he mostly overlooks mistakes. He is someone who, at this point in his life, has no friends, no family, and years dedicated to an employer now despised by most.
The Remains of the Day is a beautiful novel, and one I would highly recommend.
***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge and the Books of the Century Challenge.