[Review] The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

Title of Book:
The Remains of the Day
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Publisher: Vintage International
Publication Year: 1993
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 245

The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world 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.
A tragic, spiritual portrait of a perfect English butler and his reaction to his fading insular world in post-war England. A wonderful, wonderful book.


The Remains of the Day follows James Stevens, a devoted butler of Darlington Hall who spent several days on a trip to the English countryside. It’s set in 1956 England. Stevens have been serving as a butler in Darlington Hall for thirty-four years. Several years ago, Lord Darlington passed away and the house then owned by an American named Mr. Farraday. Mr. Farraday planned on going for a trip, so he suggested Stevens to take a vacation. Remembering some letters that he received from an old colleague, Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn), he decided to take a trip himself and paid a visit to her. During the trip, Stevens reflects on his career serving Lord Darlington, a man whom he admired and considered as one of the great gentlemen.

Based on the book’s summary, you might think that this book sounds slow and boring. However, after reading several of Ishiguro’s works, I realize that his writing often have this self reflection and nostalgic quality in it. They’re not fast paced and nothing extraordinarily exciting happening but it’s more like contemplation of one’s life. So if you’re not particularly looking for a book like that, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you are, you’ll find this book delightful.

Stevens is the epitome of a workaholic. Some might say he’s loyal and dedicated. Some might find that he’s overdone it and his job has completely taken over his life. It’s shown in his reminiscence while serving Lord Darlington. It started out when he’s contemplating on what makes a butler ‘great’ he then went on examining his past experience on being a butler to a man he considered as a great gentleman. Yet, this is where it gets interesting. As we read on, we’ll see that the man turns out not so great after all.

He’s so caught up on being a great butler that he’s oblivious to people around him. For example, like I mentioned before as he remembering his time serving Lord Darlington, we found out that the Lord had done some questionable things. Yet, Stevens never doubted him. Even another employee, Miss Kenton, challenged Stevens on this but his unwavering loyalty only made him turn a blind eye on it. Another example is his relationship with Miss Kenton. From their interaction, I suspect there is a tension between them and even sometimes there is a hint that their relationship could be more than work colleague. Of course, for the sake of being a great butler he repressed his feelings because he thought that it could distract him from doing his job. I feel like the more I learn about him, the more I feel sorry for him. The life that he is leading sounds lonely.

The ending is kind of bittersweet. I mean, we have an old man travelling alone while reflecting on his life and what it has come to be. Did he do right? What’s next? After reading this book, these questions haunting me. I wonder what would happen to me in the next ten years. I love that this book is able to provoke me to have these thoughts and that’s what make it such a good read. True, The Remains of the Day doesn’t have the most exciting plot but it’s the kind of book that will stay and I recommend this book.

If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.

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