Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review - The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

I've just finished reading the book - it has been a long time coming, especially after all my hype for Never Let Me Go by the same writer - tonight. I am not sure now, which I would consider is better, Never Let Me Go or Remains Of The Day. Ishiguro himself says it, that he is a very normal writer. He writes about life, people, nothing spectacular (to be fair, the characters in Never Let Me Go were very normal too, despite the fact they had abnormalities).

This really isn't a review about the book. Somehow I find the feeling and the emotions that a reader finds himself/herself after reading a book more important than the actual contents and the technicalities of the book. In other words, the how's and why's rather than the what's.

There would be a significant amount of whats to discuss about this book. One, that this is very conventionally written. There is no drama and gimmick to draw a reader in. It is, to be blunt, very bland. In fact a few pages in, I was almost tempted to stop reading. But how could I? I knew what I felt about Never Let Me Go. I knew that reading Nocturnes (a series of short stories that I many times during the past few months go to the bookstore and read, one short after the other) was always a life-giving experience for me. I believed in Ishiguro and I endured.

Butler Stevens is the protagonist and if you excuse him rambling about his job and why he finds that doing what he does with dignity is so important for the first few pages, then you will grow to love him and become sympathetic, even empathetic to his thoughts, aspirations and later, his regrets. Stevens is a loveable fellow - passionate about his job (being the butler at Darlington Hall). He comes to believe that through being a dignified and efficient butler of that great house, a great venue of many a bureaucratic and international conferences, he has made a difference and impact even on far fetched things like the international affairs indirectly.

He gets a few days off from work and embarks on a car road trip through England's deep countryside.

A particular scene here interests me. On recommendation from a local, he climbs a small hill and finds himself looking at a beautiful view of the English countryside, of farms and tree dotted rolling hills.. And he remarks on the ordinariness of it all - which he says makes Britain the Great Britain. As he says greatness does not impose itself. It is not demanding and loud. It does not command awe in obvious manners. He compares it to the Grand Canyon and the many other remarkable scenes from around the world but says that the beauty of England is of a quiet restraint. Almost like, a confidence that does not need to shout itself - to announce itself.

I love that thought. That becomes the idea of greatness to butler Stevens. Though he doesn't name it per se, that becomes the underlying aspiration of all that he considers is greatness.

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I think I am betraying the greatness of this book by even trying to talk about it. If you want to see for yourself, you can read it too. I don't think I can do it justice by writing a review.

So, thats it.

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