The Remains of the Day is a tale of an aging butler, Mr. Stevens, who embarks on a motoring tour at the insistence of his employer to take a holiday. During this tour and while he is at leisure seeing the beauty of the countryside, he revisits and reminisces his past. Mr. Stevens has been a dutiful, loyal, and a very capable butler who had devoted much of his life to his profession and had rarely taken a holiday. The time off, which is taken at the insistence of his employer, allows him to ponder over his past and to understand that his total devotion to his profession has robbed him of his personal life. He recalls with some regret the missed opportunities and a love that was offered but which he was not ready to accept and cherish.
The beauty of this book actually lies in twofold: One is the beauty of Ishiguro’s writing which is simple yet elegant. And it demands your full attention. At times it is dreamlike; at times picturesque; and at times too realistic which will shake your inner walls. The other is the range of emotions that the story arouses in the reader. At times it is humourous; at times exasperated, and at times heartbreaking.
The story alternates between the years preceding WWII and post-war, and a good picture of English lives at the time and a socio-political commentary has appropriately been made part and parcel of the story which added both colour and variety to the main storyline.
Personally, it was a very emotional read for me. I felt the story of this unfortunate butler is a story of many a today professionals who had sacrificed whose youth and energy to their profession sometimes to the extent of no personal life; this is also the story of many of us who had made choices we regret or who have had missed opportunities. This was my own life story too a few years ago till an event that was a turning point in my life made me rethink life and living. And to all such of us, Ishiguro’s message is clear; we should “adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of the day”.