WBN 91: The Remains of the Day

Well, I’ve only just realised that I failed to blog Remains of the Day after reading it! It came just before The Color Purple, if anyone’s interested.

(Funny aside: until I looked at the back cover after my husband bought it last year, I actually thought this book was about zombies. Just a bit of a literary blind spot I was harbouring for awhile there!)

Anyway, I can’t believe I forgot about it because I love this book! It’s so precise, and well ordered, and there’s not a single word that’s unnecessary in the whole thing. The narrator is a butler called Stevens, and the prose reflects his personality perfectly: a little staid, very formal, lacking emotion. Despite his standoffish demeanour, I really warm to him throughout the book as I learn more of his back story and understand how desperately he is fighting change and clinging on to the past.

His past master, Lord Darlington has gone, and instead of staying in the family, Darlington Hall has been sold to an American who is obsessed with British culture. Although Stevens does his best to please his new master (primarily by trying to learn how to ‘banter’), he finds it difficult. When it is suggested that he take a short holiday to drive around the country, he seizes the opportunity to visit the ex-housekeeper from Darlington Hall, with a view to persuading her to return to her post. Or, at least, that’s the motive he’s giving us.

There are some scenes in this book that are heartbreakingly touching, and I definitely felt a little pricking behind my eyelids more than once. The sense of place is outstanding, and despite never having set foot in a genuinely functional country house, I felt completely transported there, and I could see every scene in my minds’ eye.

I haven’t seen the film, but I know it stars Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. I easily pictured Emma Thompson as the housekeeper, I’m sure she’s perfect in the role, but somehow I pictured Michael Caine as Stevens; I think he would have portrayed his aloof nature and formal manner perfectly. And that’s nothing to do with Batman. I hate Batman!

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Filed under Books, World Book Night challenge

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