Monday, April 23, 2012

Athena K's Review - The Remains of the Day

This is my first Kazuo Ishiguro novel. I was expecting to really enjoy it - and it surpassed my wildest expectations. In this tale of the tragedy of servitude, what Ishiguro does not write is even more powerful than what he does. His adept use of languge and deep subtelty paint a rich, beautiful, and in many ways timeless tragedy - and it was wonderful.

In Remains of the Day, Stevens, a middle aged butler at a well-to-do English country mansion is given several days off by his new employer.  He decideds to take a trip, both physically and metaphorically, as he muses about the great events of his life over the course of his travels.  At first, Stevens' musings seem mundane, trite, and perhaps even boring.  But Stevens' explanation of his dedication to his job and absolute loyalty to his master, his self-sacrifice and his definitions of what make a butler great began to appear to describe something much larger - and the ways in which I started to compare his story to the tragic figure of a samaurai warrior were fascinating to me.  The parallelism between English butlers and Japanese samaurai, or really any servant class in an honor culture, was so rich that I am still wanting to read commentary and consider all of the angles days later.

Stevens' tragedy is, ultimately, that the man for whom he sacrificed his life - his family, his friendships, his individuality, and his chance at love, seems not to have been worthy of such a sacrifice. This soft, lingering tragedy is as heartbreaking as it is beautifully written, and I would highly recommend this to everyone.


  1. I think this is one of my all time favourite books - as you say, it's subtle yet oh so powerful.

  2. This is by far my favorite Booker winner. I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.

  3. Have not read any from Kazuo's offering but with the glowing reviews of his books, i would have to try him. Thanks for this wonderful review.

  4. One of our book groups is concentrating on the books on the Booker short list that didn't win so this hasn't made it because it did. However, if you enjoyed this then do read 'Never Let Me Go', which I think is one of, if not the, most remarkable book I've ever read.