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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro Kazuo Ishiguro, there seems to be a dichotomy between the author's name and the subject matter of the novel. I did not know anything about Mr. Ishiguro before reading this book (I am not as well read as I pretend to be) but I have heard of the 1993 award winning film adaptation of The Remains of the Day starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. It seems like a quintessentially British story and when I looked up some info about the source material I was intrigued by the author’s name. Anyway Wikipedia cleared all that up, Ishiguro has been living in the UK since the age of five and received his degrees from British universities. According to The Times he is one of the greatest British writers since 1945.

Moving on from the author's name, The Remains of the Day is a fascinating look at the life of a butler “Mr. Stevens”. The novel starts with the framing “present day” narrative of Stevens working as the butler for an American gentleman Mr. Farraday, his embarking on a road trip holiday by himself and episodic flashbacks to his years of loyal service to Lord Darlington, with emphasis on his working relationship with the housekeeper Miss Kenton.

I find this to be a very thought provoking novel it really taught me a few things about the almost extinct profession of butlering. Not how to make a decent cucumber sandwich or anything like that, but the philosophy of butlery. I have always wondered why any intelligent person would want to be a manservant of any kind. Serving meals and drinks to a single household, or worse still, a single individual does not seem like a dream job. Well, according to Mr. Stevens when a butler is serving a great man who does great things for the country you are facilitating that greatness. So vicariously he is also doing great deeds. Whether this is a fact or one man’s misconception is debatable, but it a plausible motivation. Another fascinating thing about the traditional Jeevsian butlers is their eloquence, mannered speech and unflappability. Very few people speak like Jeeves or Mr. Stevens these days, more is the pity. Their convoluted yet precise speech is music to my ears, and the way they seem to almost teleport by moving about extremely quietly is just wonderful.

Mr. Steven’s aspiration to be a great butler means that he has to suppress his emotions at all time, practically turning himself into a super efficient robot. Maintaining a stiff upper lip at all times can lead to an entirely stiff body and soul; being the best at something always comes at a price.

During the first half of the book I did wonder what the point of the novel is as it seems to amble along amiably from page to page never actually boring but the point of the story escaped me. However, around the half way point I found myself smiling as I was reading a certain scene and realized that the story and the characters have charmed me. By the end of the book I understood the central themes of ambitions and regret and I was moved. My the audiobook edition is beautifully read by the late great Nigel Hawthorne whose diction of the classic English butler dialogue is just the thing for Anglophiles.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s sci-fi-ish novel [b:Never Let Me Go|6334|Never Let Me Go|Kazuo Ishiguro|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1353048590s/6334.jpg|1499998] seems very much my kind of thing, we will see how that goes. As for The Remains of the Day, may I be so bold as to respectfully suggest that sirs and madams set aside your undoubtedly valuable time and suspend all telephonic communications to read this particular publication forthwith?