Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #33 The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Normally I find slice of life style stories to be dull. This book was a bit better than most, having a twist of bittersweet to override the mundane. However, the overall theme of the book lacks any type of subtlety and will repeatedly jump out of the pages and slap you in the face, lest you forget that being so caught up in your own insular world without stopping to smell the roses is a BAD THING. *slap*
The story centers around the life of Stevens, the butler at Darlington Hall. He has worked for several decades for the house, which has now passed ownership to a wealthy American. He gives Stevens some time off and the use of his car, so Stevens decides to drive around the English countryside and visit the old housekeeper of Darlington Hall, Miss Kenton. As he travels, he reminisces about his job and his previous work under the Lord of Darlington Hall, a mover and shaker in the political scene in the time leading up to WWII.
Imagine Carson of Downtown Abbey. Now take away all the humanizing moments the show gave him. Then you have Stevens. Lord Darlington was hosting a summit to prevent WWII when Stevens father took ill. Instead of staying with his father, Stevens instead attends to the guests because that’s what a perfect butler would do and because Stevens overestimates the importance and influence a butler has. You want to feel sorry for him, but he’s so clueless about the world outside of his pantry and what really matters that it’s near impossible to do so.
In the end, Stevens finally gets to see Miss Kenton (who has married which is why she left the Hall in the first place). It finally dawns on him that she was in love with him when they ran Darlington Hall together. Which was a great reveal for no one. In Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro had a good grasp of handling the bittersweet. While he shows some of that same mastery here, he does venture into maudlin too often for my taste.