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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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By Julie Leto on 08-03-14
An excellent audio book performance
What made the experience of listening to The Remains of the Day the most enjoyable?
The narrator did a fabulous job of giving Mr. Stephens and all the other characters unique voices. He also had a way of making sure the humor of the novel, which is subtle with subtext, came across exactly as the author undoubtedly intended it to. I thoroughly enjoyed his reading.
What other book might you compare The Remains of the Day to and why?
I don't think I could compare this book with any other. It's quite unique.
Which scene was your favorite?
I can't say I have a favorite scene. The book is complex and tightly interwoven. But I loved Mr. Stephens and felt for him, even as he tried to keep his emotions bottled up.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
It made me laugh and this was surprising.
21 of 21 people found this review helpful
By Adam Shields on 04-26-14
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)
50 of 54 people found this review helpful