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Archive > February Group Read (2017) - The Remains of the Day

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message 1: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Hi all,

Max is taking a little internet holiday, so it's my pleasure to announce that our February 2017 ManBookering read is: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, the 1989 winner.

We will be reading and discussing the novel all month long. As always, please be conscious of spoilers. If you are going to comment a spoiler, preface it with the chapter you are discussing so others can avoid being spoiled.

Happy reading everyone!
Britta

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message 2: by Neil (last edited Jan 31, 2017 01:13AM) (new)

Neil | 511 comments Having just launched myself into the mammoth (880 pages!) 4 3 2 1, I am not sure when/whether I will get to this, although I have read it before about 18 months ago. However, I do have the movie version stored on my Sky box that I've been intending to watch for a while but never got round to. So, I will definitely watch that soon which will enable me to contribute to the conversation here and maybe to add a slightly different perspective.


message 3: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments Neil wrote: "Having just launched myself into the mammoth (880 pages!) 4 3 2 1, I am not sure when/whether I will get to this, although I have read it before about 18 months ago. However, I do h..."

The movie is pretty good but as they say, the book is better :). How's 4321?

I've read Remains of the Day quite a few times so I'll be taking a backseat this month but it is indeed a great novel with plenty of food for thought.


Jen from Quebec :0) (muppetbaby99) DID THIS WIN!? AWESOME! Just got a paperback of it, and *just missed it* as the read for a Jan Group; so now I can use it, and rearrange my actual, physical shelf in my Hub. Yup. Way beyond excited. I collect Booker winners. -Jen from Quebec :0)


message 5: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Robert wrote: "Neil wrote: "Having just launched myself into the mammoth (880 pages!) 4 3 2 1, I am not sure when/whether I will get to this, although I have read it before about 18 months ago. Ho..."

I really liked the book - as you say, plenty of food for thought. It will be interesting to see how the movie compares with my memories of the book.

(4 3 2 1 was only released today and my copy arrived a couple of hours ago. As I'm at work, I haven't had chance to start it yet. I'll post a couple of status updates as I get going.)


message 6: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 151 comments This was one of the better Booker winners. I must admit that when I read it a couple of years ago, I had memories of the film which inevitably affected the reading, but what surprised me most about the book was how much humour there is in it (more than in a lot of Ishiguro's novels). I probably won't find time to reread it this month, but will definitely follow the discussion and chip in where I can.


message 7: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) I read this many years ago but revisited it two years ago in advance of a Guardian bookclub talk by Ishiguro himself.

Couple of things from that which I found interesting (and spoiler free):

He seemed surprised, if pleased, at the reception of the book as he saw it largely as a re-write of Artist of the Floating World but transposed to the UK.

Although he did say that the very restrained narrative voice in his first two novels was simply his natural style, not a deliberate attempt to portray emotional repression. But when reviewers picked up on what they assumed was a deliberate style, Ishiguro decided to adopt and exaggerate the effect in the character of Stevens in Remains of the Day - indeed he sees the character as intentionally comic (to Hugh's point). His attempts to master "banter" are hilarious.

I had always assumed that the setting in 1956 at the time of the Suez crisis was deliberate (Britain makes disastrous foreign policy decisions every 60 years!) but apparently it was a fluke. Although I was struck how much Ishiguro was prepared to accept critics opinions of his work as just as even more valid that his own, which isn't something all writers do.


message 8: by Dyzelle (new)

Dyzelle | 6 comments This has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for a couple years! Looking forward to reading it for the first time!


message 9: by Paula (new)

Paula | 131 comments I've read the book and watched the movie. Both are enjoyable. Looking forward to reading it again. Then, of course, I'll want to snuggle in and watch the movie again as well. Cozy winter nights! Happy reading everyone, whatever book you have your nose in.


message 10: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments I've just watched the movie. What a great performance by Anthony Hopkins.

What the butler refused to see.

I think I may get chance to re-read the book this month after all, which I think might be interesting after just watching the movie.


message 11: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I've started the book yesterday, and am trying very hard not to see Anthony Hopkins all the time :-)


message 12: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments Yes, I plan to re-read it later this week and I think I may have the same problem now that I've watched the movie! Although, I think that's partly because Hopkins plays Stevens almost exactly how I imagined him from my first reading of the book.


message 13: by Holz (new)

Holz | 1 comments I have just finished the book for the first time. I have not yet seen the film so I didn't have 'Hopkins' issue and think I imagined Stevens to be rather a tall and striking figure much like his father. I enjoyed the conversations in this book, especially between Stevens and the godson. Looking forward to watching the film now to see if it mates up to my imagination.


message 14: by Paula (new)

Paula | 131 comments Holz wrote: "I have just finished the book for the first time. I have not yet seen the film so I didn't have 'Hopkins' issue and think I imagined Stevens to be rather a tall and striking figure much like his fa..."

I like to hear from readers who have been 'unspoiled' by seeing the movie first. I wish I could say I was in this case. Anthony Hopkins was the most excellent choice to play Stevens.


message 15: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I've finished the book this weekend, and really enjoyed re-reading it. The quiet language & atmosphere are so engaging. I especially love how Ishiguro intertwines the historical and the personal.


message 16: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments I've just finished my re-read. I found it far funnier than first time round and immensely sadder. Mr Stevens is such a lonely, repressed man it is hard not to feel for him. It's a beautiful book.


message 17: by Holly (new)

Holly Blackwood | 2 comments Just finished it. Loved it.. left with a little pause and sadness in its wake.

Can't imagine how, with so much internal dialogue and reflective prose this could be translated faithfully into a film?!


message 18: by Riddick (new)

Riddick | 5 comments I just finished reading it. It is a brief read but what tremendous weight does it carry with its conciseness. And this kind of conciseness in manner, too, of Stevens as a professional -- as what was expected of him as a butler -- overdetermined his life.

Ishiguro had practiced perfect courtesy in his prose like his butler in his vocation, and 'The Remains of the Day' is his showcase of masterful command and control of language. As Stevens is straightforward in suppressing inquisitiveness and practicing forbearance -- the overbearing absence of emotion to transcend the requirements of his profession -- so is Ishiguro in his unceasing quietude. His writing was never excessive as may be the usual tendency in attempting to be consistent with tone but always automatic and understated. Truly the novel is exemplary, Ishiguro the butler of fine prose.

(I have not watched the film adaptation but the promotional poster, with the images of Anthony Hopkins as Stevens, stern as a steel, and Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton, is definitive of what a perfect synopsis for the book and the film could be.)


message 19: by Paula (new)

Paula | 131 comments Riddick wrote: "I just finished reading it. It is a brief read but what tremendous weight does it carry with its conciseness. And this kind of conciseness in manner, too, of Stevens as a professional -- as what wa..."

Nicely said, Riddick. This is my second reading of the book and I'm not hurrying through it this time. The 'voice' in which Ishiguro writes demonstrates his authority as a writer. He captures Stevens' personality and dignity (there's that word...) with precision. If you decide to watch the film, I believe you'll find Hopkins and Thompson portrayed their respective characters well.


message 20: by Riddick (last edited Feb 14, 2017 11:04PM) (new)

Riddick | 5 comments In reply to Paula:

Yup, there's that word! -- and I believe the ways in which Ishiguro wrote what he wrote and how he wrote are also, in a sense, with dignity. However can one maintain such a single characteristic in style without losing the development of Stevens as a complex character? Ishiguro is really something. Impressive tone, impressive control. I'm looking forward for Hopkins' Stevens and Thompson's Miss Kenton!


message 21: by Paula (last edited Feb 15, 2017 08:05AM) (new)

Paula | 131 comments Riddick wrote: "In reply to Paula:

Yup, there's that word! -- and I believe the ways in which Ishiguro wrote what he wrote and how he wrote are also, in a sense, with dignity. However can one maintain such a sing..."


Riddick, I have to admit that, as a writer, I can be almost 'impossible' when I talk about what is referred to as "voice." So many people do it well. Not to go off on a tangent, but especially listen for it when you read a book with a child narrator. Room was one of those books in which the child's voice was authentic. I agree with you that it must be difficult to maintain.


message 22: by Riddick (last edited Feb 15, 2017 10:09PM) (new)

Riddick | 5 comments In reply to Paula:

I've heard about Room too and its language: I'll definitely check into it. I've never been interested in tone and overall atmosphere of a novel until I read TROTD. I've read Never Let Me Go before too. Ishiguro is beguiling.


message 23: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne (grauspitz) I went in blind with this book, knowing of it through the man booker rather than the movie, and found myself pleasantly surprised!

While I can't say it's a favourite (and that's mainly due to the fact that I didn't really like Stevens, even in the end) I look forward to picking up the rest of Ishiguro's books now!


message 24: by David (new)

David | 40 comments Like most other readers, I really fought to get Anthony Hopkins out of my head when reading it. But I thoroughly enjoyed how absolutely spot-on Ishiguro got Stevens's language, mannerisms and character traits. Exquisite wording. I'm more of a fan of shorter, tight novels than epics so this is definitely in my top few favourite winners. I sense I'll be reading more Ishiguro...


message 25: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments A word of warning: although all of ishiguros books are about memory some are experimental and can be frustrating reads. Never let me go and artist of a floating world are highly recommended


message 26: by David (new)

David | 40 comments Good tip, thanks.


message 27: by Britta (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I am really enjoying all your comments. It seems we had a good pick this month!


message 28: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I was excited to have the 'excuse' to revisit this book. I had read The Remains of the Day for the first time a couple of years ago based on some very strong recommendations, but after reading it I found myself a bit baffled at the degree of accolades. It seemed a perfectly nice book, written in a lovely manner, but just not particularly groundbreaking in my mind. Of course, the popularity of shows like Downton Abbey at the time that I was reading it may have influenced my 'ho-hum' reaction.. ;)

My second reading of the book gave me a stronger appreciation for the pitiable state of the main character as he increasingly finds himself an outdated relic from a bygone era. The world arounds him changes and he makes some humorous attempts to 'upgrade' himself in small ways in order to adapt to it, but with little success. In spite of the sadness that his state of affairs injected into the book, I found his fascination with a idea of "dignity" admirable and inspiring, like a bright light that was guiding the story of his life forward. Although, as Stevens points out, as an American I could never hope to fully embody that particular attribute, I feel it's a noble pursuit nonetheless and something that our modern day society could perhaps use a little more of ;)


message 29: by Nikunj (new)

Nikunj | 1 comments The narrative voice is what I love about this book. Ishiguro puts you at ease and you ebb and flow through the pages as if floating in the row boat on a Sunday Afternoon in one of Seurat's paintings. --Bhatt


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