Book reviews

Kazuo Ishiguro

I already wrote how much I liked his novel, Never Let Me Go. Now it is the turn of The Remains of the Day. After these his most popular novels. both made into motion pictures, I admire and favorite this author, Japanese from birth, who lives in England since he was five. No doubt I will read more of his books.
I had seen the movie of the same title by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, and while I read The Remains of the Day, I saw Hopkins’ face all the time in my head. This  was not bad, though. I want to see the movie again. I am sure Hopkins had read the book and portrayed it impeccably. There is, however, something that movies cannot fully show, that is Ishiguro’s style. The way the book is written, it is exactly how a butler from the English golden era will sound. And the discussions of topics like dignity, love, loyalty, duty, and what comprises life, do not always transfer to the images and dialogues. The movie is great, I suspect because the book has so much to give or take from, than even if it does not fully shows all the book has, it is successful in its genre.
I am surprised that the life of an English butler, before and after II World War could be not just of interest to me, but so akin to my own reflections, so relevant. The book was moving and never cheesy. It shows a quality in Mr. Stevens, a restrain and shyness we could call Japanese, but on a closer look, it could also be attributed to some British. It is that way of saying much without direct words. Mr. Stevens, the butler, talks with subtle smiles, with his silence or changing topics.
Wikipedia says this about Ishiguro’s novels,

The novels are written in the first-person narrative style and the narrators often exhibit human failings. Ishiguro’s technique is to allow these characters to reveal their flaws implicitly during the narrative. The author thus creates a sense of pathos by allowing the reader to see the narrator’s flaws while being drawn to sympathize with the narrator as well. This pathos is often derived from the narrator’s actions, or, more often, inaction. In The Remains of the Day, the butler Stevens fails to act on his romantic feelings toward housekeeper Miss Kenton because he cannot reconcile his sense of service with his personal life.

Ishiguro’s novels often end without any sense of resolution. The issues his characters confront are buried in the past and remain unresolved. Thus Ishiguro ends many of his novels on a note of melancholic resignation. His characters accept their past and who they have become, typically discovering that this realization brings comfort and an ending to mental anguish. This can be seen as a literary reflection on the Japanese idea of mono no aware.

Great book. Ishiguro has left me both times thinking, moved, and satisfied as a reader but wanting for more.


I like this cover of Never Let Me Go much more than the ones made after the movie.

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