The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

Book description

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In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. Ishiguro’s dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change.

My review

At last I’ve read The Remains of the Day. It’s been on my to-be-read list for ever and I’m so glad that it has now shifted on my “read” list.
As many readers of the book, I’ve seen the movie first. I was in my early twenties when it hit the theaters and I was in awe of both Hopkins’ and Thompson’s fine art of acting (I start to speak like Stevens, the butler character performed by Anthony Hopkins on screen). At that time, being still at the dawn of my life journey and lacking reasonable life experience, I just could not come to terms with Stevens’ apathy on all levels: how could he not see the love in Miss Kenton’s eyes (the housekeeper character played by Emma Thompson), how could he not understand what was going on during those State-classified meetings the drawing room at Darlington Hall? “Stevens! Do something, say something! Ah, what a coward you are!” Basically that was it and I loved the movie.
Twenty years later, it’s a whole different story. The afternoon in my life journey has already set in. I’m not in the evening yet, no reason to speak about what remains of my day. Yet. But watching the movie for a second time has profoundly disturbed me. Am I sure I have not wasted my life? Looking back at the last twenty years that have gone by and, no, it is fine, nothing’s wasted. Almost nothing. I do acknowledge very dark years that took the form of a somber pitfall on my life tracks. That’s life with ups and downs. I believe the most important feature in life is revolt by not accepting statu quo of uneasy situations, that’s the least one can do. And if hell breaks loose, the only option left to us, humans with a conscience, is to fight back. Fight for our values of love, freedom, equality, respect, right to live a dignified life. What is human dignity? Where does it reside in? The question that Stevens asks himself is “has retained his dignity all this time”? I cannot say about Stevens because I have no right to be judgemental of how he has led his life but I do know about me. And that’s enough.

Read the book. Re-read it. Watch the movie. Watch it again.

Revolt. Fight back. 20 January 2017. Revolt. Fight back.

Nutshell – Ian McEwan

Description by the publisher

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Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home – a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse – but not with John. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

 

My review

Once again Ian McEwan demonstrates what a masterfully brilliant writer he is!

Who would give second thoughts at being enthusiastic about knowing what a 8-month-old foetus is thinking about the outside world and its inner life? I wasn’t interested at first and wondered what got into McEwan to imagine such a protagonist: a adult conscience in an unborn being???
But then you just get into the story, the foetus character is incredibly believable and slowly you realise you are in a 21st-century retelling of one of the most famous Shakespearean plays: Hamlet.

How can I pretend to write a well-structured review after reading this ingeniously crafted opus? I lay down the arms and show you the way instead to The Guardian’s in-depth review of Nutshell.

Give me my go, my afterlife, paradise on earth, even a hell, a thirteenth floor, I can take it. I believe in life after birth, though I know that separating hope from fact is hard. Something short of eternity will do. Three score and ten? Wrap them up, I’ll take them. On hope – I’ve been hearing about the latest slaughters in pursuit of dreams of the life beyond. Mayhem in this world, bliss in the next. Fresh-bearded young men with beautiful skin and long guns on Boulevard Voltaire gazing into the beautiful, disbelieving eyes of their own generation. It wasn’t hatred that killed the innocents but faith, that famished ghost, still revered, even in the mildest quarters. Long ago, someone pronounced groundless certainty a virtue. Now, the politest people say it is. I’ve heard their Sunday-morning broadcasts from cathedral precincts. Europe’s most virtuous spectres, religion and, when it faltered, godless utopias bursting with scientific proofs, together they scorched the earth from the tenth to the twentieth centuries. Here they come again, risen in the East, pursuing their millennium, teaching toddlers to slit the throats of teddy bears. And here I am with my home-grown faith in the life beyond. I know it’s more of a radio programme. The voices I hear are not, or not only, in my head. I believe my time will come. I’m virtuous too.

Via Netgalley: many thanks to the publisher for this ARC in exchange of an honest review.