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The Remains of the Day Paperback – Unabridged, September 12, 1990

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Editorial Reviews Review

The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him -- oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel -- namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.

From Publishers Weekly

Greeted with high praise in England, where it seems certain to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Ishiguro's third novel (after An Artist of the Floating World ) is a tour de force-- both a compelling psychological study and a portrait of a vanished social order. Stevens, an elderly butler who has spent 30 years in the service of Lord Darlington, ruminates on the past and inadvertently slackens his rigid grip on his emotions to confront the central issues of his life. Glacially reserved, snobbish and humorless, Stevens has devoted his life to his concept of duty and responsibility, hoping to reach the pinnacle of his profession through totally selfless dedication and a ruthless suppression of sentiment. Having made a virtue of stoic dignity, he is proud of his impassive response to his father's death and his "correct" behavior with the spunky former housekeeper, Miss Kenton. Ishiguro builds Stevens's character with precisely controlled details, creating irony as the butler unwittingly reveals his pathetic self-deception. In the poignant denouement, Stevens belatedly realizes that he has wasted his life in blind service to a foolish man and that he has never discovered "the key to human warmth." While it is not likely to provoke the same shocks of recognition as it did in Britain, this insightful, often humorous and moving novel should significantly enhance Ishiguro's reputation here.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage International; 1st edition (September 12, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679731725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679731726
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (447 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Kazuo's writing style is beautiful.
Oldie But Goodie
I'm very grateful to this book, because after reading it, I knew what I don't want to do anymore.
David Streever
In life and love, Stevens realises he has been avoiding both.
Diane Schirf

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

282 of 294 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
There is always the danger of reading too much into a book. That is a danger that I don't believe exists with The Remains of the Day, one of the most beautifully written contemporary novels. The Remains of the Day is the story of Stevens, an English butler in post-World War II England. In beautiful understatement, Ishiguro explores the themes of the novel: What is the meaning of professionalism in today's society? How much should one sacrifice in order to remain true to his own personal ethics? Ishiguro weaves quiet comedy and tragedy in this deceptively simple tale, but always preserves a strong undercurrent of psychological motivation and tension. In beautiful, crystal clear prose, he tells the tale of one man's interpretation of his place in society. The fading class system also serves as a metaphor for the fading glory of the insular world of postwar England. If your're looking for a John Grisham breakneck plot, skip this book. If you want literature at its finest, you can't do better than this.
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116 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Diane Schirf on November 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Highly recommended.
It's difficult to believe how much Kazuo Ishiguro packed into this short (by today's standards), highly praised novel -- a lifetime of work and relationships, the realization of inescapable regret, and the hope it is not too late to join the rest of humanity.
Stevens is a butler for an English house that is no longer great, nor is it owned by the family for which it is named. His postwar employer is, instead, an American named Farraday; as a stranger will point out to him later, "An American? Well, they're the only ones can afford it now." Farraday "affords" Darlington Hall by shutting much of the house down and using a reduced staff, which Stevens can understand, as the staff that would be available would not be up to his own high standards. When he receives a sad, lonely letter from Darlington's former housekeeper, Miss Kenton (now Mrs. Benn), and later is told by Farraday that he can borrow his employer's car for a vacation on the road, he weighs the opportunity and decides to take it for "professional reasons" -- to see if he can lure back the highly qualified Miss Kenton to her former position. During the brief journey, he spends much of his time contemplating what "dignity" in his profession means -- and whether he lived up to it. After a plethora of recollections about the late Lord Darlington during the prewar years and after his meeting with Miss Kenton, Stevens comes to two great understandings: he did not serve a great man as he thought he had, and, in doing so, he had missed a chance for love and fulfillment. His devotion to Lord Darlington has betrayed him, personally and professionally. "I can't even say I made my own mistakes," he laments.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Booker Prize has Kazuo Ishiguro to thank for raising the reputation of the British award in the American market. This is simply a great literary novel. It is an organically crafted novel which uses the unreliable first person narrative technique to great effect. Stevens expresses himself with elegant phrases indicative of his station, which immediately endears him to readers who respect civility of manners. (And who doesn't, right?) But then the novel starts to turn. Stevens is above all a dedicated professional butler, but his actions are morally in question. From the opening chapter Ishiguro immediately presents one of the major themes of this ambitious novel: what is the nature of professionalism? Is it doing one's job without question, at the expense of one's humanity? Is professionalism the only moral guide in the modern era? Is professionalism at odds with 19th century European ideals? This story starts out as a seemingly silly debate about whether to take a drive in the English countryside or not, but over course of the novel it expands into a debate about the moral questions of the 20th century--quite a feat. The love story with Miss Kenton is memorable, but it is really the big questions that make this one of the most important novels of the 1990s. A great book for English literature classes.
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76 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Maginot on May 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Remains of the Day" is a fascinating study of character, and to some extent of history as well. The novel spans the professional life of an English Butler named Stevens. It guides us from his heyday as a loyal servant at Darlington Hall to his twilight years as a curio for the estate's new American owner. Steven's is a man of impeccable loyalty and stubbornness. While these qualities ensure Stevens' professional survival, they also provide his life with tragic limitations.
In some parts of the book, Stevens' loyalty is admirable albeit misdirected. For example, Stevens is unable to acknowledge his father's infirmity until Lord Darlington brings it to his attention. He is also unable to shed his professional scales just long enough to have a meaningful interaction with the woman he loves. At the end of the book, Stevens returns to Darlington Hall from a short trip to the country and resolves to master the sort of "bantering" that his American employer requires. All of these factors make Steven's a humorous caricature, but Ishiguro did not write this book merely to make fun of English butlers.
The real issue lurking in the depths of this book centers on fascism and conformity. Stevens' master, Lord Darlington has ties to the British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, and is later denounced and disgraced for that reason. Blind loyalty prevents Stevens from acknowledging the error of Lord Darlington's conviction, even after he fires all the Jewish members of his staff. Long after Lord Darlington's death, when his estate has been purchased by a wealthy American, Stevens still feels unquestioning loyalty to the master. It costs him his relationship with the woman he loves, and makes us rather pity his blindness.
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