Remainder is a novel to be read for the existential discomfort that it leaves you with. Those who read this for a plot will not be satisfied. It attempts to recreate (or "re-enact") the soul and its connection to the material world, and cleverly poses the question who is observing who and what is the real self.
If you do not wish to contaminate your experience of the novel, then do not read on. Just read the following paragraph, which is my conclusion:
I highly recommend this book to those interested in exploring existentialism, the philosophy of body and soul, and also post-traumatic stress syndrome. Besides that, I found this to be an entertaining novel that I could not put down, full of a quirky British sense of humor.You may find yourself reading the book a number of times to digest the full meaning.
What is reality? The author may have cleverly "tricked" the reader into thinking that the novel takes place in the "real" material world....
My take on this novel(and this can be interpreted in many ways) is that the whole sequence is a dream, possibly of someone dying on a ventilator in an ICU, having experienced a horrific trauma. It may even have occurred at the instant preceding death...there is much emphasis on slowing down and stretching time.The re-enactments cleverly contain dream-like images and metaphors of the events surrounding the trauma. As he struggles to live (possibly within a coma and a paralysed body)he recreates the moment of "death", stuck in a state that borders on life and death at the moment of the trauma. As he struggles to hang on to life, he reinvents the traumatic moment...he is stuck at that point. At the end, he appears to hover between life (and its pain) and death (with its release) as the plane metaphorically banks to and from the airport. At that point he has released the trauma, relinquished his fear, and recovered his soul... and lost the painful need to understand.
I consider this book to be an excellent piece of literature which enables the reader to experience multiple levels of the soul. Life and our sense of what is real are paradoxes. Tom McCarthy has managed to express this in a fascinating novel. The interpretation is clearly left with the reader...some may find that unsatisfying...but that's the whole point...there is no ultimate answer, simply re-enactments of existence.
I highly recommend this book to those interested in exploring existentialism, the philosophy of body and soul, and also post-traumatic stress syndrome. Besides that, I found this to be an entertaining novel that I could not put down, full of a quirky British sense of humor.