Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day
Ishiguro’s third novel moves away from Japan and focuses exclusively on England. While Ishiguro may have (temporarily) abandoned Japan, he has not abandoned his favourite theme, that of memory and reconciling memories with the real world. The hero of this novel is Stevens, a Jeeves-like butler to Lord Darlington, an influential politician during the war who, at the start of the novel has died, with his estate (and great house) having passed to a rich American. Stevens is now going on holiday, making a long car journey which will take him further and further away from the safe haven of Darlington Hall but also will make him confront the two bitter truths of his life. The first truth is that Lord Darlington was not the great man Stevens took him for but rather a man who tried to bring the Nazis and Britain closer together. The other great truth is Miss Kenton. One of the ostensible reasons for his journey is to persuade Miss Kenton (now Mrs. Benn) to return to Darlington Hall, where she used to be housekeeper. During her period there, Stevens and Miss Kenton always had a proper, professional relationship but it is quite apparent that Stevens loves her. Miss Kenton would have reciprocated his love but, as he never showed any love for her, she married someone else and his chance was lost.
As with his other novels, these revelations come slowly, in flashback, reconstructions, musings, conversations, as an organic whole is gradually built up. And what Ishiguro does, by gradually building up this picture, using wit, pathos and strong insight into his characters, is to produce another great novel.
First published 1989 by Faber & Faber