Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Remains of the Day (or Don't Waste Your Life)

"What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?"
Ecclesiastes 1:3

I just finished reading The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I'm not sure where I heard about the book or why it was on my amazon wishlist, but I'm glad I picked it up!

The story is narrated by a butler as he reflects on his life of service to his lord.  He is grappling with questions about whether or not the gentleman that he served was indeed great and honorable.  He is also reflecting on his professional relationship with a woman that also served in Darlington Hall.

On the back cover they have this assessment from Newsweek: "Brilliant and quietly devastating."

I think that is a perfect description. 

Even knowing a bit of the plot before reading, I was engrossed by the story.  I saw the telling of it as brilliant as I went along, but didn't see it as devastating until the end.  It is a story that will have me thinking about things for a little while. 

The book explores themes of dignity, duty, and opportunities missed.  As Augustine said in Confessions, "Time takes no holiday."  This story demonstrates that powerfully.  If you like novels, I would be inclined to think you would enjoy this book.

A quote to leave with you about reflecting on turning points in one's life: "Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had.  Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding.  There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable."

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