Book Review – Remains of the Day

Remains of the day , a beautifully written “English” book by Kazuo Ishiguro. Steeped in Old-world Britain, the book takes you back to the era of stiff-mannered butlers with very strict codes of what was acceptable and proper .The notions of acceptability and propriety are held aloft not only for the butlers but also for the upper class gentry. Though Class conditioning and propriety take Centerstage , the novel is very subtle and perceptive at the same time The tale of a man hemmed in between propriety & class distinctions .To the extent that it takes him awhile even to accept the fact that he could be harboring feelings of love for a co-worker . The very thought of such entanglements in the work environment is akin to blasphemy. And by the time he gets around to the idea , she is long gone.

The focus is on Ideals. How the protagonist centers his whole life around ideals but he has very little to speak for the same ideals in the twilight years . There is a certain sense of restraint and formality throughout as Stevens believes these are a pre-requisite for his profession . The quietly blending into the background , being present , in an unobtrusive ,inconspicuous manner , which again Stevens believes is the hallmark of butlers . This restraint is so ingrained that Stevens is unable to shed this role in his personal life too

It’s a book on loss ,on regret .The book starts on a note of nostalgia , then gently morphs into a tale of regret , of the elusive idea of dignity .The heartbreaking realization of the fact that the code of conduct on which one based one’s life has come to a naught .The language is nothing short of exquisite . The author’s craftiness comes to the fore when the reader is able to grasp the things that are left unsaid –of the crushing disappointments, the uncomplaining acceptance of bigotry and prejudice, the irrevocable loss of love and warmth, the slipping away of the one chance at love the protagonist had …I wanted to almost give a big hug to Stevens, when he accepts that his heart’s breaking except that he would be really embarrassed …

“What can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished? The hard reality is, surely, that for the likes of you and I, there is little choice other than to leave our fate, ultimately, in the hands of those great gentlemen at the hub of this world who employ our services. What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.”.

A masterpiece ..Warm , evocative , haunting , recommend to all ..

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