I’ve had this book on my shelf for almost ten years, and picked it up a couple of weeks ago thinking I hadn’t even attempted reading it – being a bit intimidated by it – and discovered my own scrawled notes in the margins! I think I read portions of it for a class in college, but I’m sure I never read it all the way through.
Stevens, the protagonist, is the head butler of a wealthy and influential lord’s household in the years directly following World War I through post- World War II. He unrelentingly strives to keep in line with what he considers “the dignity in keeping with his position” – so much so that he loses opportunities to discover a sense of self or a personal sense of dignity separate from his position. Ishiguro is a maestro of capturing the heart of what you might call stereotypical British restraint, but frames it through his protagonist’s first person accounts in such a way that both the placid surface and the heart-breaking underbelly are equaling compelling. Stevens’ restraint is painful, his self-denial both pitiful and heroic.
I’ve never watched the movie, but I have a feeling that with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson as the leads that I’ll not be disappointed in the tone of the movie being vastly different, or missing some of the subtle grace of each of the characters. Overall – a lonely, lovely book.