The Remains of the Day is the story of a butler, Stevens, who has spent the best years of his career in the service of a noble British gentleman during the early 1900-s. After years of continuous service, Stevens finally gets to embark on a short holiday away from his workplace, Darlington Hall. By this time, however, his original employer has passed away and Darlington Hall has been bought by a nouveau rich American, Mr. Faraday. The Remains of the Day follows Stevens' ruminations on this journey. Stevens ponders about his past life that has been spent mostly in service of Mr. Darlington, a prominent figure of the British polity of his times. He examines the various facets of a great butler and tries to arrive at his own ranking in this scale of greatness. Stevens also examines the various subtle hints of love in his otherwise dry life.
The book is able to showcase life in the servant quarters of great British houses. The humongous efforts undertaken by these people in order to maintain the facade of seamless efficiency, is brought to light in this book. “...the various 'sleights-of-hand'.. by which a butler could cause a thing to occur at just the right time and place without guests even glimpsing the often large and complicated manoeuvre behind the operation.” One does not know, until one has read the book, the scale of complicity in the day to day operations of such establishments and the countess contributions of the working class that make such houses-great.
The Remains of the Day is written in the stiff formal language that would be expected out of a butler of Stevens' pedigree. The narrative does not follow a time line as such, but is quite easy to follow. It is written in the form of a monologue to represent Stevens' constant talking to himself on his holiday. The story line is generously interspersed with Stevens' own comments on the events in the book. The reader has to be cautious to not fall in with Stevens' interpretation of certain events and maintain a neutral outlook. This could involve much reading between the lines.
The book has been a pleasurable read to me but I am afraid I am unable to carry any lasting impression of it in my mind. It is subtle in its message and leaves a sense of, as the name suggests , peaceful resignation at the end. No high emotions, no passions, no sentimentality, just the desire to make the best of what one has with maximum efficiency...
Book Reviewed By Ashmita Saha
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