Alibiserver's Reviews > The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
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Nov 12, 2011

it was amazing
Read from November 12 to 24, 2011

There comes, once in a while, a book that leaves a dent in our minds. Of course, with the myriad of choice reads these days, a lot of books catch our fancy, some may occupy us once in a while, and others may affect us profoundly, but rare will a book leave a dent to you. There is a slight different between leaving a dent and affecting in that being affected may be a quality that’s too ephemeral and leaving a dent may give one a 360 in whatever aspect of their life. The Remains of the Day is one such book.

It is astonishing to think that the writer was no insular Briton. Immigrant writers are, often than not, more compelled to write more of their own experience in their adopted countries rather than putting themselves at an imagined state of being the native himself. In his earlier novels, Kazuo Ishiguro too wrote novels that tread in that path. One can cite “A Pale View of Hills” and “An Artist of the Floating World.” In a general sense, minority communities are usually lumped close together, and collective thoughts are bound to gain recognition to their adopted country through the arts. While immigrant writing can be a form of collecting what is shared experience between newcomers in a foreign land, the subject of being in-between two cultures and the resultant “trying to fit in” aspect which is quite universal in most works can somewhat lead to predictable and otherwise unexciting reading.

What poses as a challenge to immigrant writers is how to put oneself in the mind of the insular. Not only must the writer be adept to the mores and customs of his compatriots, he must also paint this believable air in his work. More of a challenge it would be if the writing was set at a different time period for it requires pulling up a lot of skill and familiarity. Thus, it is no wonder why we shouldn’t be amazed; a medium-sized book of this calibre can be a chore if looked the other way around.

It tells the story of an aging butler, Mr. Stevens, and his life in the service of the Darlington House during the mid-twenties up till the fifties. The memories pop out every now and then while Mr. Stevens takes up his motoring trip to the countryside, meeting people along the way, going through inns, engaging in conversations, and enjoying the sights. What prompted this trip was partly an effort by his new employer Mr. Farraday and the letter sent to him by Mrs. Benn (nee Kenton) whom he formerly worked with in the house. The letter tells him of her unhappiness with married life. Throughout the novel, we question Stevens’s undying loyalty for his former employer yet hint at the apparent dislike of ever mentioning his failings.

Central to the story is the treatment of language in the novel. Ishiguro treats it with wit, with the care and delicacy that is so rarely seen in most modern British novels. He writes without crass, and puts Stevens and the characters in person to whatever they are as people. This treatment of language also makes us wonder how Stevens would react to simple conversations, especially on banter and witticism. It is also language that limits Stevens’s character and stature but moulded in such a way that instead of being bored at flouting his ideals of loyalty and dignity, we are presented with a protagonist that screams release.

I cannot truly say that the novel is anti-war; there are anti-war novels presented in the warzones that would put that strong notion that it is indeed anti-war. It is not a love story as well; the novel does not contain the strongest of those feelings and whatever Ms. Kenton might have felt for Mr. Stevens would’ve been that of the professional sense. However, the novel though most strikes as an effective character study of servants during this period. Servants who uphold the most stringent of service to their employers are regarded as the best in the field no matter how misguided their loyalty may be, leaving behind their feelings, opinions, and inner persons. You question Stevens’s unfeeling when his father passed away, question his position in Darlington’s house and the meetings that come and go, and question if his service was indeed contributory to his well-being.

There are of course imperfections but by no means harmful to me giving a perfect five for this novel, one of which was the motoring-reminiscing plot, which is often used in most plotlines. The writing is balanced and so are the other elements. I hope Ishiguro could again write a treat as tasty as this.
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Reading Progress

11/14/2011 page 72
29.0% "I am being treated to a fine dining restaurant (Reading) with Alfred Knopf as the waiter and Kaz Ishiguro as the chef with Remains of the Day as the mouthwatering dish."

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly Great review! However:

"It is astonishing to think that the writer was no insular Briton. Immigrant writers are,..."

I think Ishiguro migrated to England when he was just a very young boy (5 or 6 years old). So he is almost 100% British like those born in England and the only Japanese about him are perhaps his name and his features.

Alibiserver ^^ I have to agree to that but there are some immigrants whose lives are still bound to the community. There are of course exceptions to this. It may be that Ishiguro may have been molded as British when he was very young and that it may have been imperative in his growth as a writer and added that "extra cred" to his novel but his first works were about the immigrant experience.

For me, being in an immigrant community can either influence the writer to strengthen ties to his roots or foster deeper understanding to his adopted country.

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly I agree.

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