|Anthony Hopkins as "Mr. Stevens" in the film|
The Remains of the Day is a Booker Prize winner by Japanese/British author Kazuo Ishiguro. It is another novel about the upper crust British class. (Why do I keep reading these?) This on the surface does not sound like anything I would be interested in. A movie was made of the novel starring Anthony Hopkins. It looked very snooty. So I’ve steered clear of it. However, if your interested in books at all and contemporary fiction especially its hard to avoid the critical praise heaped upon Kaz Ishi. So I caved in and read his most famous title. I’m happy to report that it is a good book.
“The Remains of the Day” is structured around a road trip taken by Stevens, a butler at the famous Darlington House in
The main characters of “Day” are Stevens, of course, Miss Kenton, and Lord Darlington. Stevens is not a likable guy in my opinion. He sees his complete, unwavering servitude as “dignity”. He has deluded himself into thinking this way because of a similar quality in his father told through another memory. In which, his father’s loyalty to his master is tested and his father does not waver. Later, when the father health is failing Stevens sees his commitment to his duties over attending to his ill father as ‘dignity’. Literally his whole life is serving
Miss Kenton is a housemaid at Darlington House, who is the only person that is really able to speak with and relate to Stevens in such a way that he actually seems human. Yet, even these conversations are few and far between…yet, they are the chisel that breaks through the harsh façade Stevens’ has constructed. Miss Kenton’s obvious feelings for Stevens and his obliviousness to them is further illustration of Stevens’ delusion. Stevens’ road trip includes a visit to the now married Miss Kenton. It is this visit in which Stevens begins to come to the revelation of one of the book’s major themes, the idea that one must stop looking back, and must stride forward. An encounter with a stranger in the park after this meeting with Miss Kenton reiterates: (Paraphrasing) “Most people consider the evening the best part of the day. Why not kick your feet up and enjoy it?” Stevens begins to question what he will do with the remains of his day…
I didn’t like Stevens, until perhaps the very end and even then he can’t completely break free of his delusions, but I did like his story.