The Remains of the Day

  • by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Narrated by Simon Prebble
  • 8 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Nominee, Literary Fiction, 2013
The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world in postwar England. At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving "a great gentleman". But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington's "greatness" and graver doubts about his own faith in the man he served.

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What the Critics Say

"A tour de force - both a compelling psychological study and a portrait of a vanished social order." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Duty, Honor, England

Any additional comments?

Well of course I'm going to give this 5 stars.

Interesting that a novel written in 1988 by a man who wasn't born in England could write one of what I would consider one of the great novels of English literature. A lot of novels I'm sure have attempted to carry on the tradition of this sort of 'novel of manners and society', but this is probably the last, great one we'll ever see. Fitting then that it would be about the ending of things.

For myself, a great novel (or any work of art) is one which gets you thinking about yourself. I tended to think a lot about my own missed opportunities, my age, what lies ahead, and most importantly the feeling of the people around me. I wondered how what I might assume someone I know is thinking or feeling could very well be wrong - that I'm oblivious to a great many things because I can't see past my own nose.

Yet Mr. Stevens never seemed worried about this because he always knew his duty. His duty carried him through all things and so he never once questioned if he might ever be wrong. He's even asked by Mr. Cardinal on the night of the great meeting if he believes what his Lordship is doing is 'right' and he only replies that it's not his place to know. Right and wrong only become a concern to him when dealing with the topic of a butler serving a worthy employer.

Of course, putting aside lords and butlers, Mr. Ishiguro is obviously concerned with larger issues, chiefly the idea of allowing oneself to be led by another who may not be as moral as you would like - which is why Hitler is such a good backdrop since he took full advantage of people's allegiance to the German state. That unquestioning loyalty seems quite dangerous against the Nazi flag, yet here we see it with the good intentions of a naive English gentleman and his loyal butler. And the price both paid were costly, but at least Mr. Stevens got some good advice about always looking forward and so his fate is not as bleak as Darlington's.

Oh well, I could go on and on, and that's what makes this such a wonderful novel. I'm glad I read it so soon after reading Fathers and Sons too - I feel as if I've read some of the greatest novels ever written and they are both stories I am very sad to have to put down.

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- Dan Harlow

Butler reflects back on his years of service

Remains of the Day ended up in my reading list after being nominated for a 2013 Audie Award. I watched the movie years ago and knew the had won a Booker Award in 1989 when it came out. So after Audible had it on sale I started listening to it.

It is an excellent audiobook. Simon Prebble was a very good choice as narrator.

Mr Stevens has been at Darlington Hall for 35 years. Lord Darlington, his long time employer, passed away 3 years ago and the great house was purchased by an American business man. While the new owner is away, Mr Stevens decides to take a trip to see the former housekeeper.

His travels lead to long sections of reminiscence. The entire book is first person narration. Stevens alternates between occasionally realizing what is going on to being unable to really see what is going on around him. He maintains his ‘dignity’ even to the listener.

Much of the book is about Stevens trying to indirectly see whether the work of his life has had value. Stevens asserts that he has been great because he has served a great man. (Although many others believe that Lord Darlington was actually a fool that was played by Hitler to keep Britain out of the war for as long as possible.)

So I am struck by how different this book would be if Lord Darrington was a great man instead of someone that was out of his depth. Stevens believed that service was more important than his own happiness. And I think many readers that find this book tragic would commend him if he had served Winston Churchill or another Lord that ended up being truly great. So I wonder at the implicit idea that underlies the entire book.

On the other hand this is a great book to illustrate cognitive dissonance (the idea that we come to believe something different from reality in order to make ourselves feel better.) The best book I have read on that is Mistakes Were Made, but Not By Me.

I really did enjoy the book, it was performed excellently. And it really did challenge me to think about what we serve (or who we serve) and how thing outside our power can forever affect the way we perceive ourselves. In the end I think I come to a different conclusion then the book intended. But it is still well worth reading.

(originally published on my blog, Bookwi.se)
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- Adam Shields "Book blogger at Bookwi.se"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-29-2012
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio