The Remains of the Day
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Completed November 13, 2008
The Remains of the Day is a perfect example of a character-driven story. It’s the narrative of Stevens, an English butler who took a road trip when his American employer was on holiday. While you read about Stevens’ traveling adventures, you learn more about Stevens’ career as a butler to Lord Darlington, a prominent English diplomat who had ties to the Nazis before the war.
Stevens’ entire career was devoted to serving his employer in a dignified fashion. His ultimate goal was to make his employer’s life easier so his employer could focus on being a “good” person. As Stevens recounted his career with Lord Darlington, he reflected on his employer’s decisions. Always faithful, he maintained a blind loyalty to Lord Darlington – even when situations indicated the man’s flaws. The reader can see where Stevens struggled to maintain his loyalty. However, he always sided with Lord Darlington– for if Lord Darlington wasn’t the best man he could be, than Stevens was a failure as his butler.
While on his road trip, Stevens hoped to meet a former housekeeper, Miss Kenton, to ask her to return to Darlington Hall. She worked with Stevens during its heyday, and they shared a very unusual relationship. At times, I felt that they were attracted to each other, and then other times, I thought they lived to annoy each other. It was a nice tango that moved the storyline at an interesting pace.
Admittedly, I was a little thrown off by Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing style at the beginning. Stevens initially came through as stuffy and detailed, but after 25 pages, I settled into this story. The Remains of the Day offered a compelling look into the life of an English servant and his struggle to maintain his dignity while his employer’s life shattered. His pursuit of Miss Kenton illustrated his desire to put things as they were (an impossible task). Smart and intriguing with excellent character development, I would highly recommend this Booker Prize winner to anyone who enjoys good literary fiction.