The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day

Book - 1990
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The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him -- oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel -- namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1990
Edition: 1st Vintage international edition
ISBN: 9780679731726
0679731725
9780394251349
0394251342
Branch Call Number: FICTION Ish
Description: 245 pages ; 21 cm

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The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him -- o... Read More »

Stevens, a perfect English butler, evaluates his life and his dedication to duty at all costs in this heartbreaking, beautifully written novel.

In post-war England, few people need (or can afford) a butler. So what should The Perfect Butler do?

A portrait of a man evaluating the life he led--a life spent putting duty above all else.

A tragic, spiritual portrait of a perfect English butler and his reaction to his fading insular world in post-war England.


From the critics


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m
m0mmyl00
May 29, 2019

I loved this dear book. The story and characters seemed quite simple, but they lived with all the tangled complications we all do. Stevens is an aging butler, deeply committed to striving for perfection in his duties. He was in charge of a large staff at a distinguished house, serving an important and distinguished gentleman. The housekeeper, Miss Kent, and he developed a professional friendship which turned a bit more personal. Never, however, personal enough to overshadow his duties as a dignified manservant in a distinguished house. She left, the important gentleman fell into some disrepute, and an American bought the house. Also, Stevens himself began faltering. He went on a road trip to visit Mss Kent, and met some deeper aspects of himself, and developed some ideas he had earlier pooh-poohed or ignored. In my mind, he’s a cousin of Major Pettigrew and the gentleman in Moscow — earnest, authentic, and kind.

f
fred98115
May 16, 2019

Marvelous book. A butler goes on a short holiday and reflects on his career and employers, noting that change is happening, a change that he may not join.

ArapahoeAnnaL May 01, 2019

Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989, I couldn't put down this quiet story of an English butler reflecting back on his career and life.

x
xiaojunbpl12
Mar 11, 2019

Mesmerized reading his retrospective and introspective narrations, I felt a touch of melancholy mixed in perpetual peace with oneself. Resignation from others' ambitions and pursuits is not promoted in our time and place. For now, I take the book as a light, comedic form to read, instead of a heavy-minded analysis on self-deceived dignity.

d
darladoodles
Dec 19, 2018

This book is a thought-provoking and delightful read. As Mr. Stevens motors his way through the countryside he reflects on happenings both past and present. His quest for dignity is a prevalent theme as are his ruminations on acquiring the gift of bantering. The past includes momentous and historical happenings as well as encounters with Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper. Those exchanges remind me of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes in the Downton series, but without the happy pairing of the two. . . yet we find ourselves daring to hope for more.

Is the reputation of the butler solely tied to his lordship? Does he have individual liberties and obligations outside of his loyalty to the house he serves? As Stevens reflects on "the remains of his day," we do so as well. Very appropriate book group selection. No wonder it was a Nobel prize winner.

j
julia_sedai
Jan 27, 2018

So amazing. What a well-written book.

It's hard to describe what it's like, but the author is so clever at revealing the past slowly. I can see why this book has won so many prizes. It's a treat to read.

It reminded me a lot of Downton Abbey. I think it made a bit more sense to me because I have seen that show, so I could picture it clearly in my head and just hear him talking.

I recommend this for anyone.

w
writermala
Jan 12, 2018

Frankly I only picked up this book because it was a Booker Prize winner and by a Nobel Prize winning author. It was a P.G. Wodehouse meets Jane Austen account of four decades of a British butler's life. Stevens the Butler has a wonderful voice as he tells his tale of all that transpired in Lord Darlington's mansion and subsequently of the scaling down by the new American owner. I enjoyed his style and the undercurrent of unrequited romance. I would unhesitatingly recommend this book. It is a breath of fresh air.

j
Joeybiomaster
Jan 08, 2018

I chose this book because Kazuo Ishiguro had won the Nobel Prize in Literature and I was really excited to read something of his, maybe a little too excited. I guess the low rating is a result of how boring I found the book, yet I think that is the only reason for the low rating. I found it interesting how the author went into the politics of being a butler and the art of being a butler and the heavily debated topics of what makes a good butler, but there is only so much I could stand.
The main character is excellently crafted and he reminded me a little bit of Monk, I was annoyed at him many times and I felt sadness for him as his residence diminished in size, yet the book was lacking. However, I don't think there is anyone who could have written a better book with the same plot. I am looking forward to reading his other books, with a little bit of caution.
PS I feel like I definitely missed something that others understood.

m
Morwen
Nov 18, 2017

One of my favorite books. Seamlessly written. I love the way the underlying story dawns--even as the day (the butler's life, an era in England) is fading.

h
harrissusanc
Nov 09, 2017

Butler on holiday through the countryside in the 1920’s confronts criticism of his previous master’s politics. The cool voice leaves you with great pity for the subservient Mr. Stevens - for his utter acceptance of loyalty, and for the author’s quiet mocking of his single vision narrator. Henry James satire in high modern English.

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baharbehroozi
Sep 27, 2018

"Lord Darlington wasn't a bad man. He wasn't a bad man at all. And at least he had the privilege of being able to say at the end of his life that he made his own mistakes. His lordship was a courageous man. He chose a certain path in life, it proved to be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see, I trusted. I trusted his lordship's wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can't even say I made my own mistakes. Really -- one has to ask oneself -- what dignity is there in that?"

a
annanina
Mar 22, 2016

You've got to enjoy yourself. The evening's the best part of the day. You've done your day's work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it. That's how I look at it. Ask anybody, they'll all tell you. The evening's the best part of the day.

b
BPTADiscusses
Nov 29, 2013

You see, I TRUSTED. I trusted in his lordship's wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can't even say I made my own mistakes. Really--one has to ask oneself--what dignity is there in that?

n
ndp21f
Sep 24, 2010

The great butlers are by great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost; they will not be shaken out by external events, however surprising, alarming, or vexing. They wear their professionalism as a decent gentleman will wear his suit; he will not let ruffians or circumstance tear it off him n the pubic gaze; he will discard it, when, and only when, he wills to do so, and this will invariably be when he is entirely alone. It is, as I say, a matter of 'dignity'.

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lindendesai
Jul 22, 2015

lindendesai thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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