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The Remains of the Day
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Group Reads Archive > The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishguro (2013 Reading Challenge)

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Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Janice (JG) This story is fun and fascinating. I remember seeing the very end of the movie once, and while I don't remember a thing about the story, I do remember Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton... and now as I read this, with Emma in my head, I can see that it was perfect casting.

The narration is a wonderful and delicate tongue-in-cheek treatment of the English as stoic and humorless but well-intended and perhaps innocent (or unconscious) to the extreme. It is also a story subtly told of tragic loss and passion... I'm really enjoying this.

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Judy Olson | 8 comments One of my all-time favorite books.

message 4: by Val (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val It is an inspired idea to have Stevens as a butler. His lack of humour and emotional repression would have been ridiculously anachronistic in 1956, when he narrates the story. Stevens is many things: Dignified and professional, as he sees himself, naive, unquestioning and ultimately tragic, as we eventually see him, but he is never ridiculous.
The idea that anyone could see collaboration with the Nazi regime as a positive moral choice requires quite a significant paradigm shift!

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I really enjoyed this book when I read this several years ago. Made me a fan of Ishiguro's writing. Excellent use of the language and an excellent story as well.

Gary Smith (gary622) | 17 comments Saw the movie and have read the book twice. Will reread it again for this challenge. Seemed substantially darker when I re-read it at 40+ than it did at 30+. The British servant class is such a staple in the literature about this period that I think we have to be conked on the head to see how mentally and physically hard such service must have been, even if the masters happened to be kind (and surely in real life they often weren't)

message 7: by Val (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val The upper servants didn't have to work quite as hard physically as the lower ones, although it would not have been an easy life. I think the most telling thing is how Stevens becomes a 'non-person', defined almost entirely by his job, and perhaps the saddest thing about the book is that he takes pride in this denial of his personality and emotions.

I am often disappointed by film adaptations of novels, but the movie is really good in this case.

Janice (JG) I finished it today, and I feel like I have read something incredibly substantial. What seemed fun at first became Stevens' heartbreak -- ah, the choices we make, and the reasons we make them.

Without giving out any spoilers, I thought the comment about how the English got duped by the Germans prior to WWII was because the English system of Honor, and the proper treatment of a defeated foe (WWI), dictated their willingness to welcome the German Third Reich. Very interesting.

message 9: by Val (last edited Jan 25, 2013 01:14AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val That is certainly shown as Lord Darlington's view Janice, but I don't think it was one that many people held at the time. I am fairly sure there were conferences and discussions similar to the 1923 conference in the book, perhaps if they had been successful the rise of the Nazi party and WW2 could have been avoided, in Europe at least.

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Lori Baldi | 9 comments I'm finding it tough to get my mind around the idea that the main thrust of the story is "choices". I finished this a couple of weeks back so it very fresh in my mind. While reading the book I didn't grasp that at all. Stevens didn't notice that he was making choices. But 1 of the peculiarities of the book for me was that there were so few women at all except for Miss Kenton. Stevens' father was there and was a retired butler, what about the mom? The dad must have had a personal life beyond his job or else where did Stevens the Younger come from? Did I miss a mention of Mom?

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments People make choices every day and just don't realize that they are making choices. Stevens had no knowledge that he was making any choices. He was just following his master's lead.

Stevens, I think, was born to a life of service. His father was in service. I presume that his mother had been in service. It appeared to be all that he knew.

I've seen the movie more recently than I've read the book, but I recollect that there were other people in service at the house who may/may not have been caught dallying with the opposite sex in the garden (or some such place) or people who were in service who left under questionable circumstances.

And wasn't there a certain amount of shock/surprise when Miss Kenyon left the house?

message 12: by Janice (JG) (last edited Jan 25, 2013 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Janice (JG) Jan C wrote: "People make choices every day and just don't realize that they are making choices. Stevens had no knowledge that he was making any choices...."

Yes, I think the author was showing us just how much we can shut down our natural character and inclinations for the sake of (job, religion, culture, upbringing, you-name-it). We do this out of fear. Stevens' whole demeanor is of a man who is afraid to face anything true or real... recall how when his father died he continued to serve drinks to the gentlemen upstairs, and was not aware of (or, chose not to acknowledge) the tears streaming down his cheeks.

A similar moment happened when Miss Kenton told Stevens that she was leaving -- the gentlemen upstairs kept asking him what was wrong... apparently his face betrayed the emotion he was trying to hide.

Any one of those moments could have been faced for what they were, but Stevens' denial was in full swing. This may be an extreme example of the hold a job can have on a person's life, but I've known people who have sacrificed everything for their job of work.

No one else in the story is that divorced from their feelings, not even his father, who tells him he loves him in the end. I think it is a story about the prison we can build around ourselves in order to stay safe and avoid responsibility.

The good news is, I think Stevens began to see the possibility of human warmth and interaction as the beginning of change. It is also interesting to me that the person in his life who tries to treat him like a human being is his new "master," who happens to be an American. And isn't that a comment on the class system in England?

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Gary Smith (gary622) | 17 comments At the risk of asking a "Book Club Question," - Given that Mr. Stevens is quite the unreliable narrator, to what extent is Lord Darlington simply naive versus being an actual traitor?

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the conversations that Stevens reports are accurate, i.e. other characters in the book really did say what he reports. I'm calling him an unreliable narrator in that he misses some obvious emotional cues and often fails to grasp the significance of what he reports...

message 14: by Val (last edited Feb 01, 2013 03:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val I agree with you Gary, that Stevens is probably reliable about what happens and what people said, but unreliable about the meaning and emotions behind the factual.

Lord Darlington was not charged with treason, he was accused of it in a newspaper, sued and lost his suit. He may not have been a traitor in the strict legal sense and his intentions at the beginning may have been as honourable as Stevens sees them, but he did carry on with his pro-German stance even after Hitler came to power and when most politically aware people had become suspicious, so he was extremely naive.

Janice, I thought Miss Kenton left before the American 'master' bought the house, so he wouldn't be the one asking Stevens what was wrong, although I may have remember the chronology incorrectly. I think the new owner of the house is the one who keeps trying to get Stevens to use banter, which he is uncomfortable with.

Janice (JG) I don't think Lord Darlington's naivete was singular among his peers... wasn't Edward VIII also a Nazi sympathizer? I had the feeling there were several British aristocrats who found validity in the early Nazi philosophy, and as I mentioned before, Stevens explains the British desire to "honor" the vanquished enemy as partly to blame for the continued naivete.

To Val - I was thinking of Darlington and his guests when Stevens went to serve them after learning of Miss Kenton's engagement and departure. They ('the gentlemen upstairs') kept asking Stevens if something was wrong, as if it showed on his face, but (of course) which he refused to acknowledge.

message 16: by Val (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val Janice: When you were talking about the gentlemen upstairs asking him what was wrong and then his American employer treating him as a human being, I thought you meant they were the same incident. Sorry, my misunderstanding.

Stevens seems to regard his aristocratic English employer as a master, but his American employer as just an employer, with money rather than breeding, so he is a bit less uncomfortable with human interaction (although he regards banter more as a difficult skill to add to his CV than something he might ever enjoy).

I see a big difference between being pro-German in 1923 and being so in the mid to late 1930s. Lord Darlington was pro-German rather than pro-Nazi, he severs his contact with the BUF woman and acknowledges that getting rid of the Jewish maids was wrong, but does not go on to think through the implications of the new German regime, which is why I see him as naive rather than treasonous and Stevens sees him as honourable.
(The BUF was pro-Nazi and mainly working class. Miss Kenton and later Lord Darlington disagree with their policies, Stevens objects to their class.)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Val - does the class differential in England during the period (or maybe still? I don't know) have something to do with how Stevens feels toward Darlington? And the fact that the American (if I recall correctly) made his riches through the merchant class and, subsequently, politics. Do these things help establish the difference?

It has been a while since I read this book or even saw the movie, although I do have it on VHS.

message 18: by Val (last edited Feb 04, 2013 12:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val Britain had a class system based on heredity rather than wealth for several centuries (although the wealth and the heredity usually went together). Industrialisation and the two World Wars pretty much destroyed it.
Stevens does seem to be hanging on to the old social hierarchy, but he is an anachronism by the time he is relating the story. Stevens is still employed as a butler and still takes pride in doing his job well, but no longer devotes himself to Mr Farraday in the way he had to Lord Darlington. He is less unquestioningly deferential, but it is not clear whether this is because he has less respect for 'new money' or that he realises that the world has changed. I saw it as mostly the latter, plus also realising that Lord Darlington's political opinions were wrong (although he still insists they were honourable in intent). Stevens doesn't understand or acknowledge his own motivations a lot of the time, so I don't think Kazuo Ishiguro intends us to be able to pinpoint them confidently and 'class' is certainly one of his motivations.

This is from "The Frost Report" in the 1960s:

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Oh, that's funny. I recognized Ronny Corbett but not Ronny Barker. Used to love them on the Two Ronnies. I don't think we ever got the Frost Report here. I think our first exposure to Frost was That Was The Week That Was (TW3), again in the '60s.

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Nick Bridwell (NickBridwell) | 9 comments I very much enjoyed this novel. It is one of those worka that is fully contained, yet leaves you wanting more--a complete page turner in its portrayal of a protagonist so void of life he may simply be the fading silhouette of the times. How devastating is it that he gives his life to a class system that is crumbling as he speaks and a man who was not fit to be served? Great work! Never has a veritable fool evoked such sympathy.

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I've just finished reading this excellent novel. There've already been lots of good comments on this thread about the details of the story.

I just wanted to note that I have read it and I'm looking forward to reading more from Ally's 2013 BYT Reading Challenge. I've found several of them as free ebook downloads.

Susan | 774 comments Loved this book, can't believe I hadn't read it before.

message 23: by Val (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val Susan wrote: "Loved this book, can't believe I hadn't read it before."

I can hardly believe it either Susan!

Nigeyb I've not read it since it came out in 1989 but I recall being enthralled by it. It's high time I reread it.

The film adaptation is wonderful too.

Susan | 774 comments Val, there are lots of books I haven't read - I know that is hard to believe :)

Nigeyb If anyone is curious to get a flavour of the film version of The Remains of the Day then click here to watch the trailer.

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Lori | 73 comments I read this book a couple of years ago and thought it absolutely beautiful. Such elegant writing, and a poignant story. I was very lucky to receive a gorgeous Folio Society edition of it for Christmas:

Nigeyb ^ What a gorgeous edition

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Lori | 73 comments It is. I particularly like the illustrations - they seem so apt, and just the right style of illustration for the book - subtle and understated.

Nigeyb Nigeyb wrote: "I've not read it since it came out in 1989 but I recall being enthralled by it. It's high time I reread it.

The film adaptation is wonderful too."

Yes. I have just started reading it.

I read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro when it came out and I have very positive memories of it. I generally don’t reread books because, well, as well all know, there’s already just too many books and too little time. The Remains of the Day is my current real world, book group choice so I am forced to reread it. Having read just over 30 pages I am wondering whether I should be rereading more books. It’s like slipping into a warm bath - something very familiar and yet always welcome. It’s sublime storytelling and beautifully written. I remember it all fairly well but the quality is better than I had recalled.

It perfectly evokes the life of a butler in a Great English House between the wars - and every page is an absolute delight. I am so glad to be rereading it.

Welcome back old friend.

Nigeyb Mike wrote: "I also liked The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. It had quite an impact when it was published, I remember."

A huge hit indeed. Both book (1989 Booker Prize and over one million copies sold in English alone), and the subsequent film adaptation garnered a few awards.

Lynaia wrote: "I remember that. That's a large part of why I picked the book up when I saw it at my library bookstore."

Yeah. Hype can be offputting - though in this case it was all justified - both book and film

Connie wrote: "I loved "The Remains of the Day" too."

Listen to Connie. Connie knows.

Connie wrote: "I concentrate less on the plot, and more on the quality of writing, the second time around."

That's certainly my experience with this reread too.

Nigeyb About 60% through now and absolutely loving this reread. This book is superb. Beautifully written, subtle, clever, evocative - a perfect read and a perfect BYT read.

Nigeyb I have just finished.

Click here to read my review


Nigeyb I must rewatch the film now

Lynaia | 153 comments I started reading this and so far it is quite enjoyable. It definitely seems like a different lifestyle to an American like me. I've also put the movie on reserve at my local library so I'll have to finish this before watching the movie. The descriptions I've read seem to show a very different emphasis between the book and the movie. Will be interesting to see if this is true. Thanks Nigeyb for the impetus to take this off my tbr list!

Nigeyb ^ I am really happy that I helped to inspire you to read it Lynaia. Please keep us posted with your reaction to the book, and the film.

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