The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

October 29, 2011 at 22:07 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romantic Fiction) (, , , , )


Kazuo Ishiguro’s great success in this little novel is his ability to move his story onwards at a lively pace without once losing the consistency of the voice he has chosen to use. This success is all the more notable when it becomes apparent that he has not only the abilty to build the character of Stevens upon a skeleton of reminiscences to a fully fleshed portrait of a deeply interesting man, but also the skill to weave the most important parts of his story through implication and inference.

The Remains of the Day is a slow story, but far from the slowness of a painfully-dragged weight it has the pace of a lazy river, and Ishiguro has the patience to allow it to develop organically: a brave choice that does not even allow the reader a clear glimpse of his chosen subject or message until at least a quarter of the book has passed. It is a delicate character study, but it is the character study of a nation and an epoch, without ever being grandiose or gaudy enough to become its own pastiche.

“Democracy is something for a bygone era. The world’s far too complicated a place now for universal suffrage and such like. For endless members of parliament debating things to a standstill. All fine a few years ago perhaps, but in today’s world?”

-The Remains of the Day

Never is Ishiguro’s reluctance to allow climax and denouement reach the forefront more evident than his casual avoidance of almost every key sequence of action: from mild mishaps to tragic disasters through to the final meeting between his two chief characters, all is constantly shuffled into the past tense, creating both a poignant sense of things past, as well as building upon his ever-present sense of narrative slowness. This is not the easiest book to read, and neither is it the most satisfying. It is hardly anticlimactic, but it could be easily described as disappointing, for characters and reader alike. But for an interesting and beautifully-written novel to read on a rainy day, there really are few better.



  1. Joachim Boaz said,

    I loved the movie adaptation….. Have you seen it?

  2. Kami said,

    I always appreciate the quotes you choose to highlight. They seem to sum up the particular feeling of each book. On THE REMAINS… I’ve wanted to read this for quite some time. Perhaps I’ll finally pick up a copy now that you’ve whetted my appetite.

  3. J. Holsworth Stevenson said,

    I’ve not seen the movie, but I’m sure Anthony Hopkins doesn’t disappoint. Emma Thompson is one of my favourite actors, so perhaps I shall look for it. I imagine it would also be a lazy afternoon sort of movie.

    Kami, I’m actually very chuffed you liked the quotation boxes. They’re something relatively new I’ve been trying, and my hope has been that they’ll help people who’ve not read the books to enjoy the reviews more than they otherwise might have. So…exactly what you said. Thanks!

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