Book Reviews, Historical

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro Review

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Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve decided to write this review despite not being to actually put into words what I love this book. The only way I can summarise it is the Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing is magical, and he has a wonderful way of layering a seemingly simple story with nuances and themes so that it doesn’t smack you in the face.

It is 1956, and Stevens, who has been a butler at Darlington Hall for years, has been given some time off by his new American boss, and has been offered one of his cars to use for a motoring holiday. Stevens decides he will travel the west country, and visit an old friend, Miss Kenton, who used to be a housekeeper at Darlington Hall, before leaving to marry. Over the course of his week-long holiday, he writes a diary and explores his life at Darlington, and particularly his time spent working under the old Lord Darlington, before the house was bought by the wealthy American he now works for.

One aspect to the novel is that of Stevens’s working life at Darlington Hall. This considers his career as a butler, and Stevens’s own sense of satisfaction and pride from his position, as well as his opinion of his employer Lord Darlington. I really liked the way that this encompassed a range of historical events, as Lord Darlington play a role in European politics of the 1930s. I also found Stevens’s exploration of the meaning and importance of his lifetime of service to be really interesting. It was moving to see him almost try to convince himself that his work was meaningful, struggle with whether his life had been well spent, and with how other people see his accomplishments, especially in a society that is leaving behind the aristocratic world that Stevens is used to.

The other side of the novel is that of Stevens’s personal life, which is closely interlinked to that of his working life, but looks at his relationships with his father and Miss Kenton, the housekeeper at Darlington, who left many years ago to get married, and who he is travelling to visit. Although they were closely wound up in Stevens’s working life, it was refreshing to see a slightly more human side to Stevens, who keeps a tight hold of his emotions. Again, I enjoyed reading how Stevens struggles to decide whether he has made the right decisions in his relationships, and decide how he feels about the people that have passed him by.

The best thing about this book is Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing. My favourite book is Never Let Me Go by him, and I found that this had the same gentle style of writing that I loved about that book, which meant that I felt like the voice of the narrator was so realistic that I could believe they were a real person. It genuinely felt like Stevens was a real person, telling us a real story about his life, and as if there was no author being a middleman between him and me. It means that the characters all feel real, so the story feels real too, and it also meant that despite this book being laden with commentary on social class, historical events, and other themes, these issues are never being waved about in your face as if the author was trying especially hard to make the book complex, but rather, they feel natural.

Overall, I really loved this book and just like Never Let Me Go, I would probably consider it one of my favourite books.

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T5W: Authors You Want to Read More From

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s topic is 5 authors you would like to read more of, and it was actually very difficult to only pick 5! I tried to pick authors who have books out that I haven’t read yet, rather than authors I love who simply haven’t written more books yet, which made it a bit more challenging, but I thought it might be a bit more interesting to talk about the masses of literature out there already that I haven’t yet been able to experience.

1. Neil Gaiman

 

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I love Neil Gaiman’s mind. His work is always original, and he has this great way of mixing dark and funny writing together which I love. Even if I’m not head over heels with a book, I am always head over heels with the way his brain works. His settings and characters are always unique, and he can make everything feel new and different and slightly creepy. I’ve loved everything I’ve seen of his work, from novels to his Doctor Who episodes (The Doctor’s Wife is one of the best episodes ever – fight me.)

I admit, I am a little in love with Neil Gaiman’s brain. And the man.

2. Kazuo Ishiguro

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Never Let Me Go is one of my favourite novels of all time. I loved the delicate blend of different genres and Cathy’s voice as a narrator telling her story to the reader. Even though this novel isn’t exciting in the jam-packed-with-action type of way, I devoured this book in a day. I think that perhaps one of the reasons why I didn’t go straight to Ishiguro’s other novels is the fact that Never Let Me Go isn’t really a clear-cut genre story, so I don’t know whether the other books will be similar or not. I do know that I loved his writing and characters though, so I think I need to buckle up and give it a try.

3. George R.R. Martin

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I have read all of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and it is one of my favourite series. I haven’t read anything as expansive and exciting as these books, with such a vast array of complex characters. I love the moral ambiguity of his characters. Maybe the sheer size of this series, and the way that it feels like it is sometimes taking over my life, is the reason why I haven’t tried George RR Martin’s other books, but I would like to give them a try. I own a couple already, and I know that there is a lot out there to read across different genres and formats, from novels to short stories. There’s a lot to keep me entertained, it’s just a matter of time.

4. Maria Turtschaninoff

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Maresi was beautiful in so many ways. I loved the setting and world-building, the characters, the story, and the writing. It reminds me a bit of Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing in Never Let Me Go, with the narrator telling you the story after the events have happened, and Maresi’s tone was calm and dream-like like Cathy’s was. It is so refreshing to find an author whose writing feels so comfortable and easy, so I can’t wait to read Naondel, the second book in the Red Abbey Chronicles. I also know that Maria Turschaninoff has other books in Finnis. So, what do I have to do to get these translated to English?

5. Victoria Schwab

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I’ve read Schwab’s This Savage Song and am excited to see what happens in the sequel. Even though this book didn’t blow me away, I was impressed by her creativity and I have heard so many good things about her adult fantasy books published under the name V.E. Schwab, in particular A Darker Shade of Magic. From what I’ve read about these novels, I feel like I might get some Neil Gaiman vibes from Schwab’s writing, so I can’t wait to finally get around to reading these.