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Old 03-17-2012, 05:41 PM   #16
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I really loved this book, and it got me laughing from the first page - that very subtle British humour that I find very appealing: though of course, it gets more and more depressing as you go on, but I really enjoyed the way it was written.
Yes, now that you have pointed it out, I do find that the humour―which as you say―has a tragic edge, is a very significant element in creating the darkness that is in this novel.

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Old 03-18-2012, 06:01 AM   #17
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I completely agree on the humor (the very subtle British style) and the tragic edge pointed out by the previous posters!
You people are so good at putting words to my thoughts!
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Old 03-20-2012, 08:43 PM   #18
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I finished this book awhile ago and have been digesting it. I am glad I read the book, but I can't say that I especially enjoyed it. My initial reaction was much like issybird's post so that is why I have been thinking about it for awhile. I didn't like Stevens very much. I wasn't sure why Miss Kenton had romantic feelings for him. He frustrated me for his lack of inaction and stoic acceptance of everything happening around him and to him. Although sometimes I felt like his voice was a mask to what he really thought and felt. It was rather depressing to identify with his loss and regrets and feelings of what could have been. I did like the last chapter of the book, although quite tragic, because finally he shows emotion with his broken heart after meeting Miss Kenton and expression of tears to a stranger on the pier. I also liked the contrast with the stranger who had been a butler (less dignified, of a not-so-grand house) but had a content retirement to look forward to in the remains of his day. Evening's the best part of the day, after all. I wonder if Stevens returned to Darlington Hall and perfected the art of bantering for his American employer and was happier, but I suspect not. Can you picture Stevens ever retiring? Not me. His career as a butler is his whole identity. I also plan to watch the movie sometime soon because I think I might like Stevens better when acted on the big screen and see more of a connection between him & Miss Kenton. I just didn't want to watch the movie until I gave the book some serious thought.

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I'm not sure what to think of his emotions though, since he hardly admits to having any. No happiness, no anger, nothing... Stiff upper lip, show nothing...
Asawi, I liked the description that Stevens gave about the beauty of the British landscape because I thought it represented how he thought someone with dignity should behave and express their emotions.

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What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels not need to shout it. In comparison, the sorts of sights offered in such places as Africa and America, though undoubtedly very exciting, would, I am sure, strike the objective viewer as inferior on account of their unseemly demonstrativeness.
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There is another way we can see why Stevens is what he is.

When we see the limitations of Lord Darlington, it would seem that the idea of unthinking service to the 'gentleman" becomes ludicrous. Oddly, I don't think that was such an idea was necessarily all that far-fetched in the time the book's events unfold..... So Stevens can be seen as one who is making a life statement {however deluded} that epitomizes the values in the world he knew and that most others of that era accepted as being valid. The concept of "dignity" was the nearest approach he could make to being a "gentleman".
fantasyfan, I think this concept is represented by Stevens's irritation with Harry Smith when he is stranded in the small village of Moscombe. Harry has strong political opinions and feels that every free man and woman has the right to such opinions and to strive for dignity because of how much they had sacrificed in the great world wars of that time. Dignity is not just for gentlemen, he says. Stevens's opinion is quite contrary:

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There is, after all, a real limit to how much ordinary people can learn and know, and to demand that each and every one of them contribute 'strong opinions' to the great debates of the nation cannot, surely, be wise. It is, in any case, absurd that anyone should presume to define a person's 'dignity' in these terms.
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Old 03-23-2012, 01:24 PM   #19
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[QUOTE=Bookworm_Girl;2011824 Harry Smith when he is stranded in the small village of Moscombe. Harry has strong political opinions and feels that every free man and woman has the right to such opinions and to strive for dignity because of how much they had sacrificed in the great world wars of that time. Dignity is not just for gentlemen, he says. Stevens's opinion is quite contrary:[/QUOTE]

I think that you have isolated a key moment there.

I feel that Stevens is caught in a time-loop which shows up exactly how wrong his obsession with "dignity" has become. When he leaves the pocket universe of the estate he is plunged into the real world. His values are not relevant any longer in that contextーthough he remains faithful to them as he has nothing else. Had he married Miss Kenton, the whole world would have opened up to him through the family they would have had. There is a greater "dignity" in that love-relationship than could ever be provided through the role of a butler. Clearly, Miss Kentonーthough she still has an emotional attachment to Stevens is not willing to go back with him as the world which includes her Grand-daughter has a greater life-relevance than the role of a housekeeper.
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Old 03-23-2012, 01:36 PM   #20
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I thought that was a key moment also, it engendered a real "Yay for the common man" reaction from me. However, I was annoyed at Ishiguro for making it so that the only person who could see through Stevens was the doctor, a representative of the privileged class, while the villagers maintained their fetlock-tugging mentality. It wasn't going to be a quick transformation.
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Old 03-25-2012, 01:28 AM   #21
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Yes, you do feel like Stevens is lost in a time-warp. It is depressing because of the rather empty life he will return to after the road trip. Lord Darlington is gone and replaced by an American who doesn't live there full-time. Darlington Hall will no longer be the bustling center of an aristocrat's social parties or the political meetings shaping the history of the nation. Given the respect that Stevens had for his place in society and the British pre-war way of life that surely must have bothered him quite significantly (aside from having to learn the art of bantering!). The loads of servants that he once commanded are gone, and the huge house is closed in many areas. The stranger on the pier refers to Stevens as a "package deal" with the house. As if all the American was interested in was an English butler with his English estate, and the individual personality of Stevens and his capabilities and whether he was dignified or not really was no matter to him. Stevens was just a novelty to him, and it trivializes his identity as a butler after all that he has sacrificed in life for this role.
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Old 03-25-2012, 07:47 AM   #22
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Finally starting this book after all this time. I'll check in and read/write once I've finished.

EDIT: 25% through and I'm loving this. I'm mesmerised by the character's meandering thoughts/memories.

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Old 03-28-2012, 10:47 PM   #23
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Finally finished it, read other stuff in between. Quite enjoyed it and still digesting it.

Stevens' dignity and duty above all, his pride in service, feeling important even though he is really just serving important and self important men. Service in the face of his father's death and of Miss Kenton asking him to stop her marrying her suitor. Not replying to either with anything other than standard pleasantries was at the same time comical and tragic.

I wouldn’t have thought of the Japanese analog but it makes a lot of sense, rather dutifully serving the Emperor making his choices. Interesting to read this after reading Black Rain with Ishiguro born in Nagasaki but raised in England from a young age. The Japanese concept of hinkaku which goes beyond dignity, their ultimate sense of duty. I lived in Japan for a short time and I really believe they think differently than westerners.

Must put Never Let Me Go on my reading list now.
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Old 03-29-2012, 08:16 AM   #24
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I just finished this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I gave it a reasonably uncommon 5 stars.

I would have trouble putting everything into words, but I adored Mr Stevens and was so happy to journey forwards and backwards with him throughout this book. He was a tragic figure who was also quite unreliable as a narrator. His recollections were coloured by the role he "inhabited" as he puts it, and the attempted minimisation - this "dignity" he aspired to - only made my reaction more acute to the events as they transpired.

I actually felt that I understood him in some way and that laced his trip and its destination all the sadder for me.

I have never seen the movie, but I felt that his trip was triggered by a deeper instinct to get out, that his sudden need to see Miss Kenton was some kind of subconscious need to break out of his shell and live. And all the way, I felt reasonably assured that it was going to bear fruit, that he was going to salvage his "remains of the day". If I had seen the movie I wouldn't have been armed with knowledge that would have prevented my own heart breaking with his.

I'm not sure about the 'voice' issues mentioned earlier as I'm afraid I have no real knowledge on how British butlers and lords spoke at that time. I did wonder how Ishiguro knew though. I also thought that the allusion to the Japanese people probably makes sense, but it's far from the what the book means to me just now.

I didn't have as much trouble understanding Miss Kenton's attraction to Mr Stevens. They were both the head of the household in a way and spent a full 6 years together running the house. Even if professionally they would have had to have been close (as close as Mr Stevens ever let anyone get), and as I mentioned earlier I felt that his recollections of events were not quite reliable. I think Miss Kenton probably saw quite a lot through the shell of his professionalism in their frequent cocoa evenings. There are key points in the book where even in the narration there is a confession of sorts of showing feelings - the enjoyment of a romance novel, the tears at his father's death, the albeit restrained emotional reactions to Miss Kenton at various times.

Looks like I did have something to say after all.
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Old 05-06-2012, 12:12 AM   #25
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I finally watched the movie this weekend. I enjoyed it more than the book. It helped me to appreciate better the relationship between Stevens and Miss Kenton. Great acting too!
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Old 05-06-2012, 12:42 AM   #26
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Thoughts on Remains of the Day

It's been some time since I read this book. Commenting here is not something I'm ever wont to do, but I am such a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro that I can't resist a brief comment or two.

When I'm in a bookstore, I will always check the "I" section of lit to see if there is a new Ishiguro. And if there is, it leaves with me. Ishiguro is to me simply the finest living writer of English; no waiting for any paperback.

Remains of the Day was the first Ishiguro I read after seeing the movie. I can't put my finger on what it is and how he does it, but Ishiguro has a way of playing with time in his books. There are times when he carries you, the reader, far back in some reminiscence and then gently and elegantly brings you back and sets you down in the present. It is seamless and breathtaking to me.

What I took away from the book was the concept of a person's place, a concept that seems quaint and one we no longer fathom, but Stevens is very cognizant of his place and finds a role for himself in that place as a servant. To Stevens -- and, I suspect, Ishiguro -- there is no loss of dignity in serving. Indeed, we can talk of serving society and mankind and there is nothing but that which is noble associated with that; there is now, though, isn't there, a notion that if we serve a master, an employer, a spouse, there is something low and base in that.

I saw Remains while living in Japan. My next Ishiguro was An Artist of the Floating World and that for me is still his finest work. Having lived in Japan over an extended period, I have to say that this book more accurately conveys things Japanese -- customs, manners of address and speaking, choice of words by males and by females -- better than anything I've ever read before or since. Come to think of it, I may in Lord Darlington fashion give the PRS-350 the evening off while I do some re-reading.

Thanks for listening.
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Old 05-06-2012, 01:28 AM   #27
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What a great post, Mencken! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, You have convinced me to give one of his other books a read. Several have interesting plots, and it will be difficult to choose!
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Old 05-06-2012, 06:34 AM   #28
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Never Let Me Go I have now but it seems I now know the next one I'll read, thanks!
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