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Book Review- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

I suppose one shouldn’t be surprised to find that a book which won the Booker Prize is really rather good, and so I was reassuringly impressed with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day. This has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, but having recently watched the wonderful film version of this, with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, I felt I should finally take the plunge and see how the book compares with the film. I was not disappointed. The film adheres more or less to the events described in the book and, despite being well aware of the unfolding story, I nevertheless found it a compelling read. The book is written from the point of view of a butler in a large stately home. He tells his story from a viewpoint in 1956 during the course of a journey to visit a lady, Miss Kenton, who once worked as colleague, as housekeeper. The events he recounts during this journey took place during the 1920s-30s, however, during which time the owner of the house was involved in the politics leading up to the outbreak of the second world war. Naturally, the butler was aware of the significant events taking place at this house but his own professional duties are very much at the forefront of his story. In particular, his single-minded devotion to the service of his employer and his desire to achieve the status of a great butler mean that all other personal considerations are subsumed in this. His relationship with Miss Kenton, the housekeeper, is one that is central to the story and one that causes him a painful conflict of interests that he is emotionally ill-equipped to cope with. The story encompasses the kind of ‘buttoned-up’ emotional restraint associated with the British of this era and the language is quite exquisite. I often find that film adaptations spoil the book, but on this occasion, (as an admirer of Anthony Hopkins), I found it very easy to imagine and visualise him saying the words that I read on the page. This was a most enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone, whether or not you have seen the film. Five stars from me.

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