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The Remains of the Day [Paperback]

Kazuo Ishiguro
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1993
After three decades in service at Darlington Hall, Stevens, the perfect English butler, faces doubts about his life in a changing postwar world. Reprint. Movie tie-in. 100,000 first printing. $50,000 ad/promo. NYT.

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From Amazon

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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 the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Butler Did It May 2 2002
Format:Paperback
The Remains of the Day
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Faber and Faber, 1989.
"It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days."
Thus, Kazuo Ishiguro begins Mr Stevens' six-day journey to Cornwall in 1956 to reclaim the services of Miss Kenton, lost to both his employer and himself some twenty years before. Set in the 1930s at Darlington Hall, a secluded mansion in the romantic, English countryside, The Remains of the Day is a delicate story told by a masterful storyteller of the friendship between Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton, the butler and the housekeeper, and the love that grows between them and lasts for the rest of their lives.
Set against the backdrop of the quiet beauty and elegance of the fading world of English aristocracy, The Remains of the Day won the Booker Prize in 1989. It highlights Ishiguro's gift for poignant character studies of masculinity that continues with Mr Ryder in The Unconsoled (1995).
Mr Stevens is the perfect, English butler, studious and analytical, sensitive and diplomatic, with all the refined elegance of a gentleman's gentleman. But Mr Stevens is also the flawed man of Shakespearian tragedy. Since the most important thing in his life is always the practice of his profession, he is oblivious to the world around him. He entertains no opinion about the covert dinners at Darlington Hall with Germans and other heads of Europe in the lead up to WWII and is ignorant of his own repressed love for Miss Kenton. Mr Stevens' identity is subsumed by his role as butler.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book Feb. 22 2002
By susancb
Format:Paperback
This novel is so heartbreakingly beautiful I get shivers even thinking about it. I loved it on so many levels: as a portrait of upper-class England between the wars, as a subtle tale of unrequited love, as an examination of regret at the end of one's life. It's absolutely a must-read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A strong character study, but... Nov. 4 2001
By francis
Format:Paperback
Ishiguro's Remains of the Day is a strong study in masterful characterization. In the always professional Stevens, Ishiguro crafts a convincing character that serves as a strong instrument to convey the observations on the human condition that he wishes to expound.
Stevens gladly sacrifices his personal life (such as it is) in order to provide good service to Lord Darlington, and finds dignity and purpose in "serving those great gentlemen at the hub of this world." In his unstinting professionalism Stevens is oblivious to the overtures of Miss Kenton, Darlington Hall's housekeeper. Ultimately, Stevens questions his loyalty to the perfidious Lord Darlington and regrets his decision to ignore Miss Kenton's romantic advances.
While the tone is rather gloomy up until the very end, Remains of the Day is actually and uplifting and reaffirming tale. Stevens, while never breaking his buttoned-up professional character, realizes that he must make time for himself and forgive himself for allowing his personal affairs to fall into a state of desuetude.
Remains of the Day falls short in dealing with the other characters, none of which exhibit the strength and believability of Stevens. The backward-looking narration style is effective in emphasizing Stevens's increasingly introspective nature, but Ishiguro is unable to build other strong characters to interact with Stevens. Furthermore, the fact that Stevens has his epiphany with a stranger is a strong break in character, and proves to be an ineffective climax. Overall, Ishiguro crafts a good, but not by any means great, read in Remains of the Day.
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Format:Paperback
This is one of my all time favourite novels. The story of a butler, Mr Sterling the main character. It also features his father also a butler and Ms Kenton the housekeeper. The book offers insights into the workings of a stately english home during the time preceding the Second World War. What I particularly enjoyed about the book are the characters and the roles they portray. Mr Stevens the younger is an incredible character that is unaware he is trapped within a class system and actually likes his role within the system. It is his sense of duty that enables his naivety to develop throughout the novel. This naive sense of duty to his most noble profession, follows a procession of events that would impact greatly upon the lives of most people. However Stevens is only aware of his sense of duty to his master. Much like a dog retruning a ball to his owner, Stevens remains unaware of the events that are unfolding around him.
The role of Ms Kenton in the book is to highlight the unreal world that Mr Stevens lives within. There is an obvious sense of closeness between the two characters, however due to Stevens' sense of being honourable and the duty that comes from being honourable, this allows only evotional frustration to Ms Kenton. Stevens is a portrait of repressed identity. He is unable to come to terms with his feelings and is unable to offer opinions about the politics of his master or more importantly about his own emotions.
The Remains of the Day is a wonderful book. It is extremely well written by Ishiguro and has become a close friend. It has become a book that I return to when I want to read something of the highest quality. It is a piece of writing that I believe will pass the test of time.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Remains of the Day
It is certainly one of the greatest contemporary books in English for a very simple reason. Namely, if we forget about the exact time frame or locus and socio-cultural conditions... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Boyko Ovcharov
5.0 out of 5 stars THE PRICE OF DIGNITY
After immersing myself in two of Ishiguro's masterpieces lately, Never Let Me Go and the Artist of the Floating World, I realized I had never read this book, even though one of my... Read more
Published on July 4 2011 by NeuroSplicer
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant
This was the best contemporary book that I read as part of my English degree at university. It is about duty, human relations, love, and fear of our emotions.
Published on July 17 2010 by Anardana
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, sad, real, and hopeful
What to add - so many 5* reviews, and I couldn't agree more.

Ishiguro's prose is brilliant, and his characterization sublime. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2009 by Craig Jenkins
1.0 out of 5 stars You're gonna get robbed.
This book is not the one that you think it is. You are bying a Penguins Reader: Kazuo Ishiguro's marvelous novel is «retold by Chris Rice». Read more
Published on Oct. 23 2005 by Gérald Allard
5.0 out of 5 stars Quietly Intense
Who would think that a story about a stodgy British butler could be a great read? But, this is exactly what "Remains of the Day" is. Read more
Published on June 4 2002 by Douglas Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars The High Price of Perfection
Sometimes I think there can't be a more perfect novel than "The Remains of the Day." I am a great fan of Kazuo Ishiguro and have read all of his books, and while all of them are... Read more
Published on April 8 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular--a quiet marvel
Kazuo Ishiguro's writing in "Remains" is as near to perfection as I think it is possible for an author to come. Read more
Published on March 26 2002 by Steve
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully romantic
"Remains of the Day" is an incredibly understated novel. Like an Ang Lee film, every page is bursting with passion and restraint. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2002 by Zack Davisson
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy
The word dignity that concerns Stevens so in this novel comes from the latin dignitas < dignus, worthy. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2001 by Paul Miller
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