“I can’t even say I made my own mistakes. Really – one has to ask oneself – what dignity is there in that?”
ebook, 352 pages.
Read from December 6, 2016 to December 9, 2016.
Following some disappointment after reading Never Let Me Go, I was assured that this book was the better read by a few other readers. Well, they happened to be very right on this one.
Kazuo Ishiguo was born in Japan in 1954 but moved to England when he was only five years old. This book is set during and after World War II and while I was not alive during this era, Kuzuo seems to have captured this setting very well. World War II not only changed the scenery of the country but its people and atmosphere as well. Some clung to the only things that they knew while others tried to embrace or make change, our protagonist was the former.
Stevens is the butler of Darlington Hall, just like his father before him. All he has ever known is the hall in which he serves and what it means to be a good butler. However, times have changed and the hall is not as gallant and exceptional as it once was. Great halls and families are changing and becoming less and less prominent in post-war England. Stevens is formal, loyal and dedicated but to a fault. After receiving a letter from an old co-worker and friend he is encouraged by his employer to take some time off, something that Stevens has never done before. After much consideration, Stevens prepares his staff and takes a journey through the English countryside to meet his old friend. Through this journey Stevens offers insights to his past and what it means to him to be an exceptional butler while also revealing his true feelings and discomfort without shattering the image, dignity and appearance of a proper butler. As his story unfolds, you come to see what sort of sacrifice his duties required of him in his pursuit and dedication of his profession.
When I first started reading this novel I feared the worst. I mean I didn’t really care about the butler profession and feared that a good portion of the book would be dedicated to Stevens’ triads about it. However I quickly realized that Ishiguro did not waste a single word in this novel. Every bit of banter that Stevens utters is in relation to how he became unable to express his feelings or make a decision honestly without considering the dignity of his profession or employer. This book is a tragedy. Stevens is unable to express emotions and has missed out in opportune moments in his life, such as losing the opportunity for love and to grieve for his father. The journey that he takes is a slow realization of this loss but also a recognition that he is unlikely to change and perhaps would not have done things differently in the end.
At the end of the novel, I dropped the book in my lap and stared at the wall for a bit taking in the loss true-self that Stevens missed in dedication to his profession. I was also in awe at how the author wrote such a concise and pristine story. Ishiguro was true to the narrative and managed to show such remarkable depth about a person by not actually saying what they really felt, as Stevens lies to himself in his own inner dialogue. It isn’t until the end of the novel that the full potency of the story really hits you.
Anyone that appreciates literature, psychology, and the pains of appearance and dedication would appreciate this phenomenal story.