The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. First American Edition. Hardcover. 245 pages ; 21 cm. $18.95 dust jacket unclipped. Previous owner bookplate on flyleaf. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.
The same subtlety and grace, and the same slow bloom of revelation with which he evoked his native Japan in An Artist of the Floating World (winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year award for 1986), abound here in Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel set in his adopted England. But the specific England of this wonderfully offbeat and beautifully realized novel is the insular, fading world of the perfect English butler.
It is the summer of 1956, and Stevens—an impeccable but aging butler—has embarked on a rare holiday: a motoring trip reluctantly undertaken at the urging of his new employer, the American businessman who has recently purchased Darlington Hall. Stevens surprises himself when he feels the "flush of anticipation" setting out across the green and (he must admit) quite pleasant countryside. But there is also something else at work in him, and as his journey unfolds—he describes it in his perfect Butler's English—his newfound pleasure is gradually undermined. His life irrevocably changed after thirty years of service to the same man, and facing his own old age, Stevens is brought face to face as well with the realities of that life as his memories begin to rise out of a deep well of self-deception.
Now, the sterling images he has nurtured of the late Lord Darlington—a figure in the dark and hidden area of British between-the-wars compromise politics—begin to take on the tarnish of doubt. His recollections of his friendship with the former housekeeper, Miss Kenton, grow more haunting as he nears the moment when he may see her again after twenty years. And, for the first time in his life, he finds himself compelled to question his profoundly held belief that in serving "a great gentleman," he has done nothing less than serve all humanity.
Though Stevens' story has the calm narrative surface a man of his particular expertise would demand of himself, just below the surface we can see an intricate weave of incident and implication, a poignant and often funny meditation on the moral and emotional responsibilities of the ordinary man. The Remains of the Day is a brilliantly crafted, deeply moving novel—Kazuo Ishiguro's finest.
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954, and has lived in England since i960. He attended the University of Kent at Canterbury and the University of East Anglia. His first novel, A Pale View of the Hills, was awarded the Winifred Holtby Prize by the Royal Society of Literature. His second, An Artist of the Floating World, won the Whitbread Book of the Year award for 1986 and was short-listed for the Booker Prize. His work has been translated into fourteen languages.
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