Day 862: The Remains of the Day

Cover for The Remains of the DayBest Book of the Week!
Having seen the movie The Remains of the Day years ago, I think it is just as well I waited so long to read it. Even so, some of the book’s scenes made me envision the movie, though I had forgotten most of it.

Stevens is the butler for Darlington House in the 1950’s. Lord Darlington, whom he served for 30 years, is gone, and now Stevens works for Mr. Farraday, an American. At Mr. Farraday’s suggestion, he has decided to take a holiday to visit the former Miss Keaton, who used to be the housekeeper in Darlington House. He surmises that her marriage is not altogether happy. She has split from her husband, and Stevens hopes she will agree to return to Darlington House as housekeeper. As he travels, he keeps a diary reflecting his thoughts on the journey.

To Stevens, his professional capabilities are the most important areas of his life. He reflects a great deal on such concepts as what dignity consists of. He has removed himself emotionally from the events of his own life, so much so that when his father is dying in the house, he won’t leave the dinner party he is serving. Stevens’ dedication is taken to such an extreme that when he sees in Mr. Farraday a disposition to banter with him, he, who has no sense of humor, begins to practice witticisms.

The Remains of the Day is the striking portrait of a unique individual as he comes to consider some of his life’s decisions. He has devoted his life to the service of Lord Darlington, whose political decisions before World War II left him a ruined man. Stevens thought he was helping Lord Darlington do important work, but later he had to re-evaluate that idea. In the meantime, Stevens ignored a possible other life for himself with Miss Keaton.

This novel tells a sad, sad story. Stevens is not always a reliable narrator for us, as his perceptions are as limited as his point of view. This is a novel of depth and brilliance, intricate as a puzzle box, as we delve the depth of Stevens’ psyche.

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12 thoughts on “Day 862: The Remains of the Day

  1. Naomi March 9, 2016 / 4:36 pm

    I would love to read this sometime. It does sound so sad.

  2. Carolyn O March 9, 2016 / 6:50 pm

    I read this years and years ago. You’ve reminded me how much I love Ishiguro.

    • whatmeread March 10, 2016 / 7:22 am

      Except The Buried Giant. I didn’t like that one so much.

  3. Cecilia March 9, 2016 / 7:57 pm

    I read love Ishiguro’s writing. This is on my TR list for 2016.

  4. Cecilia March 9, 2016 / 7:58 pm

    oops, that’s supposed to be “I really love”

  5. Cathy746books March 10, 2016 / 4:25 am

    I adore this book, a really moving love story.

    • whatmeread March 10, 2016 / 7:24 am

      I don’t know if I’d call it a love story.

  6. Glance-a-book October 16, 2018 / 2:36 am

    I loved this book. The part that really got to me was when Stevens says “Indeed — why should I not admit it? — in that moment, my heart was breaking.”

    This stoic, dutiful, dignified man admitting to his feelings, made my heart break too.

    • whatmeread October 16, 2018 / 9:40 am

      He was really adept at only seeing what he wanted to see.

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