Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days."

There are some books that you know you will have to read at some point. For me, Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day was one of those books. It is a Booker Prize winner and on the 1001 Books to Read list. Back in my younger days, I sat in a room where the movie version of this book was playing but I can't really say that I watched it.

The premise of the book is that it is an impromptu memoir written by Stevens, a butler who has undertaken a week-long driving trip to visit a former colleague. He means to be writing a sort of travelogue but his mind constantly goes back to days gone by. He remembers his former employer, Lord Darlington, whom he served for 35 years. He talks about his relationship with Miss Kenton, the woman he is going to visit who he hasn't seen in 20 years. He is a man singularly obsessed with his life in servitude and really cannot think past it. Although he was completely loyal to Lord Darlington throughout his entire time in service, he finally begins to truly evaluate the events that happened at Darlington Hall during the time between World War I and World War II as Lord Darlington mingled with politicians and ambassadors.

This book is slightly humorous in that Stevens is so unable to relate to normal human interactions. He thinks constantly of opportunities to practice "banter", which he believes is required to interact with his new American employer. The book is also very sad when you begin to realize that the entirety of this man's life is spent outside of himself, in service to others. He doesn't notice when others are trying to interact with him in a social or personal manner and indeed, he even discourages it when it does happen. This story is a portrait of a bygone era and a bygone profession. It wasn't an exciting book but was definitely a good read.

Viewing the remains of the past,

Buy The Remains of the Day on Amazon or find it at your local library.

1 comment:

  1. I love this book. Hey, we got our pizza from Pagliaccis.