I’m annoyed with myself for leaving it until now to write this review. I finished reading this 3 weeks ago so, predictably, I can’t really remember a lot of the reasons why I liked it. Because I really, really liked it.
In The Remains of the Day, the narrator is Mr Stevens, a butler at one of the great English country houses. There isn’t a terrible lot happening in this book. It is after WWII has finished, and the house now belongs to an American gentleman and Stevens basically takes a few days off and embarks on a road trip in the countryside. The bulk of the book however is dedicated to Mr Stevens reminiscing and analysing certain in events in the past, his past and the house’s past.
Unsurprisingly, the writing in this book is superb and Stevens is a most fascinating character. He is extremely dedicated to his profession and he takes pride in his efficiency. He would have you believe that he is happy with the way he spent his life, that he has very few regrets indeed. But he is an unreliable narrator. It’s all the unsaid things, all the vague remarks, all the unfinished thoughts that really show him in a clear light. It seemed to me that he was trying to lie to himself, so repressed that he wouldn’t admit his own desires and needs and feelings to himself let alone act on them. At times, in the stories from his past, he comes off as completely heartless and a bit of a jerk really, but I couldn’t dislike him because it was evident that there was a lot more going on underneath the surface. In his determination to come close to the perfect butler ideal he has in his head he basically spent his life ignoring his heart. Which I found heartbreaking. All in all, an excellent book.