The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This novel is a truly astonishing act of ventriloquism.
Ishiguro, doomed to be a perpetual outsider in England, by virtue of race, has used the outsider’s gifts of ventriloquism and distance to produce an extraordinary study of aspects of the English.
Stevens, the perfect English butler, looks back on a life he cannot bring himself to admit was wasted. He served, with unwavering devotion, a man whose sympathies were with the Nazis, who inexplicably dismissed the Jewish housemaids, for instance. He struggles to bring himself to admit to himself that he has sacrificed his own chances of happiness on the altar of duty, professionalism and loyalty to a master who deserved none of the above.
It is an interesting study of painful repression and reserve which has become part of the personality to the detriment of happiness.
The novel is a remarkably accurate study of an English type from an immigrant, and of an era of history before the author’s birth. When you factor in Ishiguro’s perfect pitch, and the pervading elegaic atmosphere of sadness he admirably conveys, you have, in my opinion, a great novel.
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We listened to the opening chapters of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis Bernieres yesterday. What a captivating opening, and how well it drags you into the story. I was enchanted by the exotic setting, the close attention to character, the wry narratorial humour, the polysyllabic Latinate words which added such an interesting texture to his prose. This is going to be a book which I am so going to enjoy listening to, and then reading.