Booker Award: The Remains of the Day

I chose to read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro for this challenge for a number of reasons. I remember really enjoying the movie and that made me want to read the book. Now that I've read it, though, I think I need to see the movie again because the book is not at all how I remember the movie! I also read this book because I read Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go earlier this year and really enjoyed it. So, I've been anxious to check out this award winning novel.

The Remains of the Day has to be one of the most depressing novels I have ever read. The main character, Mr. Stevens, is a butler in a grand English house. He has spent the majority of his life serving one man, Lord Darlington. The novel actually takes place in the years following Lord Darlington's death when Stevens is serving an American gentleman who bought Darlington's house (yes, Stevens' service seems to have transferred along with the sale of the house). Throughout the novel Stevens reflects on his life and his years of service to Lord Darlington. Throughout the novel there are so many obvious opportunities for personal happiness and chances to make a difference on a personal level that Stevens seems to miss. Instead, Mr. Stevens believes his contribution to the betterment of the world is through his service to a great man.

By the end of the novel, however, the reader, and Mr. Stevens himself, is forced to question just how great Lord Darlington actually was. At best he seems to be a fool who dabbled in world affairs without a genuine understanding of what was going on. At worst he was a traitor to his country. It seems that Mr. Stevens lived his life almost entirely for another person's gain. Now he sees the changes in his profession and doesn't know how to adapt but he has no reason to retire either.

The novel is lovely and the character of Mr. Stevens simultaneously sympathetic and ridiculous. Still, reading it practically threw me into the depths of despair (to quote Anne of Green Gables). And I really need to re-watch the movie...was it this depressing?


    I also read this one for the challenge - and thank you for reminding me to post my review here!

    Anyway, I actually found it strangely uplifting in its sadness. It is a novel about loss and regret, but towards the ending there is some acceptance, some hope. I didn't find Mr. Stevens pathetic or ridiculous. Although I can't say I understand the choices he made, I was very drawn by his gentleness, and at the end of the novel I felt like I'd come to understand him.

    I have not yet watched the movie, but I really want to. Some people have told me that it is a faithful adaptation, though.