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helenliz

helenliz

The Remains Of The Day

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro This is a lovely book. It manages to be moving and melancholy without actually being depressing. In fact it ends on a hopeful, optimistic note; looking to the future after the rest of the book has been spent surveying the past. Mr Stevens is the Butler at Darlington Hall, which was in the hands of Lord Darlington, until his death 3 years ago, when it was sold to an American, Mr Farraday. Stevens seems to have been part of the package, as it were. While his employer is off on an extended holiday, Stevens takes advantage of a generous offer and borrows the car for a week to do some motoring - and to visit Miss Kenton (now Mrs Benn) who he knew as the housekeeper at Darlington Hall in the years before the war. Stevens spends a great deal of his time as he progresses down the country looking back over his life, how he came to be a Butler, what he thinks of the profession, Lord Darlington and his efforts between the wars to lessen the severity of the Versailles Treaty and, later, to bring about peace between Britain & Germany. Stevens also remembers a number of instances where Miss Kenton is wrapped up in his memory. There is the suspicion that there could have been something between them if ever either could have managed to penetrate Stevens' thick professional veneer. He was a career butler and it takes more than the major emotional upsets in life (the death of his own father, for instance) to shake him into admitting he has emotions, let alone acting on them. Written in the late 80s from a standpoint of the tale being told in the 50s, the book is looking back to happenings of the interwar years. It is a story of time passed. There is sadness in that you can't change what has passed, be that personally or in the wider context. Should Stevens have had opinions about the affairs he was close to? To the modern mind the answer is yes, but that was a different world and things were different. The end of the book has the surmise that the evening is the best past of the day, that you should be able to take pride in what has been achieved, and rest up at the end of the day, to look back on a day well spent. That might also apply to a life. Stevens' age is never divulged, but he must be in his 60s if not more at the time this is set, such that he could well be considering a life well spent. It's not a book in which much happens, it is a elegiac piece, mourning a past world, and past actions that were done or not done - that moment allowed to slip past. That moment with which only the benefit of hindsight can identify as a turning point. But it ends with a positive outlook, life cannot be lived in retrospect and Stevens heads back to the hall after his break, planning on polishing up a new skill for the future. What more could we hope for than to follow his example to the end?