Who wrote this book and when?
Kazuo Ishiguro, in 1989.
Has there been a movie made of this book?
Yes, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson as the principal characters, and Christopher Reeve and Hugh Grant as others.
Who are the main characters?
Mr. Stevens – an aging English butler who served Lord Darlington for a large part of the 20th century and now serves an American at Darlington Hall
Miss Kenton/Mrs. Benn – the former housekeeper of Darlington Hall, now married
Lord Darlington – the owner of Darlington Hall at its zenith
Mr. Farraday – the current owner of Darlington Hall, an American
What’s it about?
This is the story of Stevens, an English butler who has been given some time off while his American employer, Mr. Farraday, is out of the country. Stevens uses this time to travel the English country on his way to Little Compton and pay a visit to a former co-worker, Mrs. Benn. All along the way, Stevens thinks Mrs. Benn (or Miss Kenton, as he calls her) would be willing to return to Darlington Hall to work, and his memories of her inevitably lead to memories of his previous employer, Lord Darlington and an evaluation of Stevens’ life as a butler.
Why is this book a classic?
It touches on a topic which everyone must wrestle with in their older years – the remaining hours in their day of life. Was their life worthwhile, did they make the right decisions, was it a waste? And in this case, we meet a man who is not entirely sure he likes the answers to those questions.
Why should I read this book?
I’m not sure. It was a little over my head, to be honest, but it gave me a perspective on an occupation I don’t really think about too much. Those who served the rich and powerful in the last century.
Has it won any awards?
It won the Booker Award in 1989.
“Now I am quite prepared to believe that other countries can offer more obviously spectacular scenery. Indeed, I have seen in encyclopedias and the National Geographic Magazine breathtaking photograps of sights from various corners of the globe; magnificent canyons and waterfalls, raggedly beautiful mountains. It has never, of course, been my privilege to have seen such things at first hand, but I will nevertheless hazard this with some confidence: the English landscape at its finest – such as I saw it this morning – possessesa quality that the landscapes of other nations, however more superficially dramatic, inevitably fail to possess. It is, I believe, a quality that will mark out the English landscape to any objective ovserver as the most deeply satisfying in the world, and this quality is probably best summed up by the term ‘greatness’.” – p28
“But this small episode is as good an illustration as any of the hazards of uttering witticisms. By the very nature of a witticism, one is given very little time to assess its various possible repercussions before one is called to give voice it, and one gravely risks uttering all manner of unsuitable things if one has not first acquired the necessary skill and experience.” – p 131
Kazuo Ishiguro has written a movie, “The White Countess”, which is being put out this spring and has been produced by the same men who produced the film version of “The Remains of the Day.” It’s starring Ralph Fiennes, and if anything like his novels, promises to be wonderful.
So i’m pretty sure that all of Ishiguro’s books will make me feel like I’m not quite intelligent enough to understand them. I know the themes are there, I know what they are, even recognize how they’re played a little, but I just can’t fully grasp them – the story itself isn’t enthralling enough to make the theme feel worthwhile. What a horrible thing to say about this man’s writing, but there it is.
Ishiguro seems to have a gift with writing about those who are trapped in the past while forced to live in a very different present. This is a major theme in the other novel by him which I have read – “An Artist of the Floating World”. Even the storytelling is similar, with flashbacks of the past put into perspective by what is happening now. I didn’t particularly enjoy this book all that much, the only thing that kept me reading it was the romantic tension Stevens created for himself. And the fact that I wanted to know the “real” story of the book before watching the movie version.