Friday, December 31, 2010

"Pigeon English" by Stephen Kelman

Summary: Harri, an eleven-year-old Ghanaian boy who recently immigrated to England, narrates this novel from the small community in which he lives with his mom and sister (his father and baby sister are still back in Ghana).  The thread that holds the narrative together as Harri describes his community, friends and classmates, and experiences, is the recent murder of a local boy.  Harri is determined to investigate the murder, CSI-style, but doing so exposes him to some of the harsh realities of where he lives.

Musings: Although Pigeon English took me a bit to get in to, I'm glad I remained with the novel because I was introduced to a fresh and heartbreaking voice in the narrator of Harri.  Through Harri's eyes, his community is a mixture of the fabulous and the dangerous.  He can talk about the "hutious" (apparently Ghanaian slang for dangerous) gangs as easily as he can talk about the joy of cool sneakers or his love for his baby sister.  And perhaps what is most difficult for the reader is the way in which Harri accepts all of these facets of his life with a matter-of-fact naivete.

Harri jumps from topic to topic without a transitioning thought, and although it can be distracting at times, the style also effectively captures a young man's train of thought.  You can see the many pressures he is under from the people around him--he wants to be good and do the right thing, but he also is caught up in the pressures from others.  Nonetheless, he is someone who sees the world with idealistic clarity, and as the reader, you end up loving him and fearing for his survival.

I especially enjoyed the way in which Kelman captures Harri's relationship with his sister Lydia; it's a relationship built on both bickering and love.  Pigeon English also shows the complicated relationships of adolescent boys trying to be cool and tough and often resorting to dangerous means to prove it.

The only sections of the book I didn't like were the short italicized narrations by a pigeon Harri befriends.  The pigeon "speaks" enigmatically, and though it seems like the sections are supposed to be especially deep, I just didn't understand them.  Harri's voice is perfect to capture the mood and scene, and the pigeon's interjections are only a distraction.

Otherwise, Pigeon English is an engrossing novel with perfect characterization, and it demonstrates how difficult it is to maintain hope in destructive environments.

***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.

Pigeon English will be published in July 2011.

E-galley received by the publisher through Net Galley for my review.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Year in Review

As 2010 comes to a close, it's time to announce my favorite books of the year as well as tally up my total reading!

Last year Hunger Games was my clear favorite, but this year's list doesn't have a without-a-doubt first place finisher.  Collins' Mockingjay came no where near the top (and would probably top my list of biggest disappointments), but a number of other books were all fabulous. Interestingly, though YA made up only one-third of my books read this year, it makes up 50% of my list.  I think this may be because I'm especially picky about the YA I read.  The order to the list is only mildly meaningful.

My top 10 books read in 2010:
1. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
2. World War Z by Max Brooks
3. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
4. Room by Emma Donoghue
5. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
6. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
7. Liar by Justine Larbalestier
8. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
9. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
10. The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks by E. Lockhart

Total books read and reviewed: 109
Like last year, I reviewed all the books I read, and I also read 27 books more than in 2009.  I hadn't set a particular reading goal for this year, though I was a little pleased to break the 100 read mark. Again, I don't plan on aiming for a particular number in 2011, but I hope I'll keep about pace with this year.

Fiction read: 90
Nonfiction read: 19
Last year I made a goal to have nonfiction make up 15-20% of what I read, and I succeeded, with nonfiction comprising about 17% of the books I read.  Another goal I'll try to keep in the coming year.  I do want to try to branch into areas of nonfiction I haven't touched before. 

Adult read: 74
Young adult read: 35
My goal was to keep YA as only one third of my read books, and, again, I succeeded.  Ditto keeping this goal for next year.  I've found that recently I haven't been craving a lot of YA, and there's nothing right now that I'm really looking forward to reading.  Hopefully something soon will spark my interest.

Female authors: 51
Male authors: 58
I only recently began counting this statistic, and it was actually pretty equal up until recently when the men pulled ahead.  Although it's not something I was to focus on a lot, I do hope to be relatively equal in my reading habits next year. 

Book sources:
- Total borrowed: 82 (71 from library, 11 from friends/family/students)
- Total purchased: 8 (5 hard copies, 3 for the Kindle)
- Total for review: 9 (4 from NetGalley, 4 from NCTE, and 1 from publisher)
- Total otherwise acquired: 6 (2 as gifts, 2 from Paperback Swap, 2 won)
- Total already owned: 4 (these are books I've had for over five years)

Obviously I'm a library woman through and through.  This perhaps merits a separate post, but I've always been shocked by the number of books many book bloggers purchase.  I've always been on the thrifty side, and so I love libraries.  I can read whatever I want, for (pretty much) as long as I want, for free!  Who wouldn't take advantage of that?  I know I won't reread most books, covers have never been much of a draw, and I have no room to store books anyway.  Now, I certainly am fortunate in many ways--I have a close library that is part of a large extended system, so I can get most any book I want, and I never wait more than a few weeks.  In addition, very rarely am I "dying" to get a new release, so I never mind not being the first to have a book. 

Challenges I participated in:
- TwentyTen Reading Challenge 
- Books of the Century Challenge 
- GLBT Challenge 2010
- Persons of Color Reading Challenge

The only challenge I didn't complete was the TwentyTen challenge, and I knew I'd have a hard time doing so because I buy so few books.  One of the categories required that you read two books purchased from charity, and that never happened.  I was super excited to finish the Books of the Century challenge, even though it appears I'm the only person still doing the challenge.  It provided me the opportunity to read a number of books I wouldn't have otherwise read.

Happy new year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

"Delirium" by Lauren Oliver

Summary: Lena is looking forward to her 18th birthday in a few months in which she will receive the cure for love. Once she has been cured, she will never be at danger of contracting this dangerous illness the way her mother—who later committed suicide when the cure didn’t “take”--did. But during Lena’s evaluation, which will determine who she will be paired with for marriage following college graduation, Lena catches sight of a young man named Alex. She later runs in to him again, and even though interactions between the sexes prior to the cure are illegal, she finds herself drawn to him. Lena realizes she is in danger of catching the disease, but as she grows closer to Alex, she finds she doesn’t care.

Musings: Delirium has received a lot of advanced press recently, and though I had heard nothing but positive reviews for Oliver’s Before I Fall, the reviews I’ve read for Delirium have been more mixed.

Dystopian young adult novels have become very popular recently, so much so that there are now a variety of sub-genres within the field. Whereas classic dystopias (and even many strong contemporary YA dystopias) were created as satire and social critique, many recently published books are not. The Maze Runner, for example, is mostly a mystery, and even The Hunger Games is adventure rather than social criticism. Delirium, then, is really a contemporary romance that uses a dystopian setting.

This categorization can be good or bad depending on what you’re looking for. Because Delirium is mostly a romance, there is no world building. In this future United States, love is illegal, and there exists a totalitarian government which restricts individuals’ civil liberties in order to enforce the rules. However, despite these changes and the fact that the book is set sometime in the future (at least 60 years, though presumably longer), the technology, social customs, and culture are virtually identical to today’s. The characters do the same things and talk the same way as teenagers in 2010. And even though we’re told how restrictive the government is, the characters appear to get away with a lot. Now, I’m willing to believe that the government operates somewhat like the panopticon—maintaining order through the illusion of being omnipresent rather than actually being omnipresent—but it does seem unlikely that teenagers could elude detection for so long.

But, truthfully, all of this only matters if you don’t care about the love story itself. And, I’ll admit, I fell for Oliver’s star-crossed lovers Lena and Alex. I could understand Lena’s fear and trepidation of breaking the rules, and I could also understand her powerful attraction to Alex. Alex is really too good to be true, but it’s so nice to like him anyway and “aww” a bit for his care of Lena. Yes, there are a lot of typical descriptions of emotions ("I couldn't breathe/was dizzy/was numb when he [insert some "swoon-worthy" action]").  Nonetheless, I was eager to see what happened, even though I dreaded the ending (since this is the first in a trilogy, I knew the ending would be tragic!). I also liked that the book didn’t just focus on the romantic love between Lena and Alex but also the friendship love between Lena and Hana. Often best friends get second billing to love interests, but Oliver showed the strength and power of the two friends as well as she showed the romantic feelings.

By dystopian standards, Delirium is not particularly new or special. The book’s plot is very similar to Uglies, and the arranged love concept is appearing a lot recently (e.g., Matched). And if you read a lot of contemporary romances, you may not be too taken away by another Romeo and Juliet reincarnation. But, for me—someone who reads a lot of dystopias but very little contemporary romance—Delirium was engaging, with characters I rooted for.

Delirium will be published in February 2011.

E-galley received by the publisher through Net Galley for my review.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"The Stranger" by Albert Camus

Summary: Meursault's mother has just died.  He goes swimming with Marie.  While at the beach with friends, with the sun in his eyes, he shoots and kills a man.  He goes to prison and is sentenced to death.

Musings: My summary above has "spoiled" the book, but I really know of no way to provide an overview to The Stranger that would effectively convey the book's essence.  This is my second or third time reading the novel (I know I read it in high school, but I'm not sure if I also read it in college), and I'll admit my reason for choosing it was rather lazy: I'm one book short of completing the Books of the Century challenge, and The Stranger allowed me to finish the challenge easily, since it's so short.

The Stranger is really a "classroom" book, by which I mean I think it is best understood and explored in a critical literary environment.  It's an absurdist novel that is focused on the way in which individuals are molded--and, when resistant, judged--by arbitrary standards of society.  Meursault is a character focused on physical, not emotional needs, and he goes through life accordingly.  During his mother's wake, he thinks primarily of being sleepy or dizzy.  When he kills "the Arab," he does so not out of anger or anything else, but because the sun is in his eyes and has made him uncomfortable.  As a reader, we find him odd and his lack of attachment disturbing, but our judgment of him is turned on its head during his trial.

In the trial, the prosecutor attacks Meursault for failing to cry or show emotional distress at his mother's funeral.  His shooting of the Arab is all but forgotten, and he is condemned solely because he did not act in the expected manner of a bereaved son--a point that, of course, has nothing to do with the shooting.  Here the reader reacts against society and its judgment of Meursault, but it is too late: the jury sentences him to death.

Before the trial and later while waiting execution, Meursault is repeatedly exhorted by others to express remorse and turn to God.  Meursault refuses, and in the end comes into his own sort of peace as he "opened [him]self to the gentle indifference of the world" (122).  The others say Meursault will only find peace in God, but instead he finds peace in knowing that he does not matter and the world does not care.  I too found this reassuring--it means there is no set plan, set fate, or set "way" we should lead our lives.  This freedom gives each person who recognizes it the ability to truly live as he/she sees fit, though it's clear from the book that society tries hard to destroy this freedom.

As it's been years since I read the book for an assigned class, I don't know how standard my interpretation is, but I liked analyzing and thinking about the short but powerful novel.

***This book qualifies for the Books of the Century Reading Challenge.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson

Summary: In The Warmth of Other Suns, Wilkerson uses the stories of three individuals to provide a broad overview and understanding of the Great Migration, the fifty-five-year period in American history in which southern blacks migrated to the North.  Centering the book are Ida Mae, a sharecropper who migrates to Chicago in the 1930s; George, a grove picker who flees Florida for New York after attempts at unionizing in the 1940s; and Robert, a southern doctor who moves to Los Angeles in the 1950s in order to practice medicine.

Musings: The Warmth of Other Suns is the perfect nonfiction novel; it effectively blends the narrative with the sociological, and in doing so, it brings an intensely personal and human element to a significant part of American history while also demonstrating the large-scale effects the Migration has had on our country.

In choosing her subjects to focus on, Wilkerson has been careful to capture very different stories and experiences that, nonetheless, have important similarities.  Ida Mae, for example, was among the poorest who came North, and though she found contentment in life, she was never wealthy.  Robert, on the other hand, came from elite southern black society and was among the highest educated.  Through practicing medicine he became extraordinarily wealthy.

But, regardless of education level or background, Ida Mae, George, Robert, and the many others who traveled North did so for many of the same reasons and faced many of the same problems.  They left because there was little available to them in the Jim Crow South, where segregation and hatred made it not only difficult to make a living, but to live safely.  Although the North did provide significant more freedom than the South, it was not perfect.  What was most heartbreaking was how much prejudice the migrants continued to face, even in the North where Jim Crow did not legally exist.  In the South, a person of color knew what restaurant he or she could enter--it was clearly posted.  In the North, there were no signs, but that did not mean places were any less segregated--a person of color had to enter the establishment and potentially be refused service in order to find out.

Wilkerson is especially effective at detailing the daily indignities migrants faced in both the North and the South while also showing the ways in which the migrants were able to find success for themselves despite the virulent racism.  Although, logically, I was familiar with many of the racist policies, it was all the more poignant to hear them in terms of individual stories.  One of the sections that most stuck with me was the difficulty in migrants finding housing in the North, and the extremes white residents went to to ensure their neighborhoods remained all white.  It was sickening and saddening, and it happened within the lifetimes of many people living today.

At times some of the material could be repetitive as Wilkerson retells portions of the characters' stories as a reminder or continually reinforces the idea of a caste system, but that style also means that the main points were clearly driven home.  I liked that the book is broken up into short sections and frequently switches between Ida Mae's, George's, and Robert's stories, as it make the relatively long book feel fast-moving.

Like the other nonfiction book I recently read, Unbroken, The Warmth of Other Suns has made a number of "best books of the year" lists.  Since I spent time while reading Unbroken considering what made a nonfiction book "best," I felt like I needed to do the same with Wilkerson's work.  For me, Other Suns was a significantly stronger piece, and I think that's because Wilkerson uses the stories of individuals to help the reader understand a macro-level movement.  Hillenbrand, on the other hand, uses a major event (World War II) to tell the story of an individual, and long term, that was less compelling.

The Great Migration is a largely overlooked part of American history, but it has shaped the makeup of our country and race relations ever since, and The Warmth of Other Suns is an engaging look at that period.

***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.

Monday, December 13, 2010

POC Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

I signed up for the POC Reading Challenge with a goal of reading 10-15 books, and I easily met that goal.  In 2010, I read 21 books with authors and/or protagonists of color. Here is what I read:
- Ash by Malinda Lo
- The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
- The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
- Kindred by Octavia Butler
- Liar by Justine Larbalestier
- Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
- Libyrinth by Pearl North
- Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway
- Bloodchild by Octavia Butler
- The Freedom Writers Diary by the Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell
- Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
- A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar
- Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Color of Water by James McBride
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
- Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman 
Of the books, my favorites were The Remains of the Day, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Marcelo in the Real World.  Each of these books was completely different, but all touched me and stayed with me in some way.  Ishiguro, the author of The Remains of the Day, and Octavia Butler are the only authors I read twice.  My least favorite book was probably Freedom Writers Diary, which, to me, completely lacked authentic student voices.  I also couldn't make a connection with The Color of Water or Ash, though I know others have enjoyed them.

I did have a quite startling realization from this challenge.  I realized that although it was easy to find books with characters of color, it was much more difficult to find books by authors of color.  I was disappointed when, part way through the year, I noticed how many of the books I'd read and qualified for the challenge were written by white authors.  Recently, I stopped counting some books for the challenge that theoretically could have qualified but had white authors (like Three Cups of Tea and The Windup Girl), but in the end, at least 8 of the 21 books I read were written by white authors.  I found it was difficult to learn of books by authors of color through my typical sources: book blogs (with some notable exceptions), newspaper reviews, and award winner lists.  My difficulty in discovering books I was interested in was compounded by the fact that authors of color are under-represented (or, at least, under-promoted) in some of my favorite genres (science-fiction and fantasy; contemporary literary fiction).

I will likely participate in this challenge again next year, but I think I will focus only on books written by authors of color.  It's undoubtedly important to support and recognize white authors who include diverse casts of characters, but I think the former is where I want to place my energies.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Everything is Illuminated" by Jonathan Safran Foer

Summary:  An American (also) named Jonathan Safran Foer has traveled to Austria with an aged picture depicting his grandfather with Augustine, the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis.  With the help of his translator Alex and his driver, Alex's grandfather, Jonathan begins a hunt for Augustine.  But this is not a novel that is told chronologically or with a traditional narrative structure.  Instead, the story is recounted through Alex's letters to Jonathan after the trip and Alex's own recreation of the narrative, as well as through Jonathan's fictional recreation of his family's history.

Musings: Everything is Illuminated is a very different book--one that, in the beginning, I thought I would hate, but in the end, found difficult to put down.  It's a strange combination of the humorous and the tragic, of the real and the not-real, and the in between.  It's a book that makes you see life's moments as simultaneous and muddled, and it makes me want to write in run-on sentences.

Alex is a fascinating narrator, and he transforms from hiding in bragging and joking to the most thoughtful character in the novel.  He is only partially fluent in English, and he over-uses a thesaurus, so his letters are often a funny mix of pidgin English.  I worried the book would lean too heavily on a "haha, look at his strange English," but that really isn't the case at all.  Alex and Jonathan's early conversations also provide a lot of humor as they struggle to understand and communicate with one another.

Jonathan's fictional narrative of his family has a folksy, magical realism style to it, which initially turned me off (I think I'm still prejudiced against the style from reading One Hundred Years of Solitude), but was essential to the mood and feeling of the novel at its end.

As one review I read put it, Everything is Illuminated is, at its most simple, a story about the Holocaust, but that barely begins to encapsulate the novel.  It's a story about love and memories and the ability to see oneself clearly.  It's a book that has so many interwoven parts that it demands a reread but still feels satisfying once finished.  It's a book that made me laugh out loud and cry.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand

Summary: The true story of the life of Louie Zamperini during World War II.  Zamperini was an Olympic runner when he joined the Air Force, with the potential of medaling in the next Olympic Games.  Switching his life of running for a life in the military, Zamperini worked in the massive B-24 planes.  When his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean during the war, Zamperini spent weeks adrift at sea before being captured by the Japanese.  That capture began years of internment and abuse as a prisoner of war.

Musings: Unbroken has been making the rounds on the "best of 2010" book lists, and because I feel like I know little about World War II, I was interested in learning about one man's tale.

Zamperini has a fantastic story, though it's clear from this book that his story is only one of many incredible stories coming out of POWs.  There's much in Zamperini's life that brings amazement--his skill as a runner, his ability to survive weeks aboard a life raft, and his endurance of years of torture as a POW.

Hillenbrand has done an exceptional job of bringing various pieces of Zamperini's life together in a cogent and compelling narrative.  She portrays a multi-dimensional view of Zamperini, showing his boyhood as a trouble maker, his resilience during the war, and his struggles with PTSD after returning home.  Although Zamperini is clearly a brave man, Hillenbrand doesn't hide his dark moments, nor does she glorify the idea of "war heroes."

In fact, one of the issues that most stuck out to me was despite the important justifications for going to war, there was so much senselessness in what happened.  For example, Hillenbrand explains the extraordinarily high injury and death rate from accidents, particularly within the air force.  Military personnel were more likely to die by mistakes than through combat.  This is clearly the case for Zamperini, whose plane goes down while on a rescue mission for another downed plane.

Hillenbrand also details the extraordinary difficulty of POWs adjusting to "normal" life after the war's end.  Men who had remained hopeful and alive through the worst circumstances were too traumatized to enjoy the life they had held out for.  Zamperini was fortunate to be able to find solace (for him, in God), but undoubtedly many more were unable to.

However, while I enjoyed the story and learned much from Zamperini's experiences, I felt bothered about judging the book itself.  One of the things that gnawed at me as I read was the definition of what makes a book "good." I had seen Unbroken on so many "best of" lists that I think I expected something more.  When a fiction writer tells an amazing story, we laud them for it, but should we do so for a nonfiction writer?  Is Hillenbrand's unquestionable ability to research and pull together so many disparate sources enough?  For me, a truly great book has to have something in style and form that sets it apart, and I just didn't see that in Unbroken.  The story is clearly told chronologically, and Hillenbrand keeps the narrative moving quickly, investing in strong character detail throughout.  However, in the end, the book is still a standard narrative, and because of that, it didn't stand out to me as something special, beyond the extra-ordinariness of the story itself.  I don't say this to be critical--I thought the book was very good--but it's not the kind of book that would make a top reading list for me.

P.S.  On a separate note, I accidentally requested the large print copy of Unbroken at my library instead of a regular copy.  I was worried that the enormously large size of the text would be a distraction, but I found it didn't bother me much (though I didn't like the size of the book because of the large print--it was over 700 pages and quite heavy).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

GLBT Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

When I signed up for the GLBT Challenge, I hoped to read not just more books with GLBT characters/authors in general, but in particular, I was looking for YA books that would fit these categories.  I think I did fairly well on that this year.  I signed up at the lambda level, which was four books, but I ended up reading seven.  Here's my list: 

- Ash by Malinda Lo
- Luna by Julie Anne Peters
- Libyrinth by Pearl North
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
- Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
- Room by Emma Donoghue
- A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

Of the seven, Room was definitely my favorite, though there are no GLBT characters and I didn't know Donoghue was a lesbian until after I had read the book.  A Room of One's Own was a close second, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson was my favorite of the YA.

Although I found I mostly had to actively seek out books with GLBT protagonists, I was happy to see a number of books I read positively portrayed GLBT secondary characters.  I didn't count these books towards the challenge, but they include:

- Zombies vs. Unicorns  by various authors
- The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
- The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
- The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness 

I'm definitely glad I did this challenge, though I'll admit I put more time into searching for books in the beginning of the year than in the end.  I spent a significant amount of time in the beginning looking for GLBT fantasy/sci-fi, but had a hard time finding much.  It's something I'll continue to keep an eye out for. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

"The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro

Summary: Mr. Stevens, an aging English butler, once served Lord Darlington at the height of the Lord's prominence, looking over a large house staff and overseeing events involving important political figures.  But Lord Darlington has been dead several years, and an American gentleman now owns the property.  When Stevens' American employer leaves for several weeks, he suggests Stevens take a holiday.   As Stevens takes a motoring trip, he looks back on his many years of service, facing the truth of his employer and his service.

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.