Monthly Archives: April 2009

Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

I found this book while browsing my local second hand book shop (trying to find more Trollope). As I’d always intended to read it, but had never got around to it, this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

I really enjoyed it. It’s quiet, calm, but deeply moving and very sad.

It is the summer of 1956. Stevens, an ageing butler, has embarked on a rare holiday – a six day motoring trip through the West Country. But his travels are disturbed by the memories of a lifetime in service to the late Lord Darlington …

The novel is written from the point of view of Stevens (the butler). He is reminiscing about the past and his life as a butler in service to Lord Darlington.¬† In essence, he has spent his life striving to be a ‘great butler’, which means displaying dignity in very trying circumstances. For example, he looks back on the death of his father as his finest hour because he was able to keep providing impeccable service while his father was dying (in a tiny attic bedroom).

Lord Darlington was involved in great world affairs during the 1920s and 1930s. He organised meetings between French, German, English and American officials trying to maintain peace in Europe. It’s left to the reader to determine if he was just misguided, a dupe of the Nazis or a traitor.

Darlington Hall has a very efficient House Keeper, Miss Kenton. Although Stevens describes their relationship as professional it is clear from Miss Kenton’s responses that they have a deeper more emotional relationship. In fact, she seems to be trying to provoke a reaction from him.

The beauty of this novel is in the subtle understated writing. Stevens tells us one thing while revealing something completely different about himself. And this – the saddest thing I’ve read in a long time…

Lord Darlington wasn’t a bad man. He wasn’t a bad man at all. And at least he had the privilege of being able to say at the end of his life that he made his own mistakes. His lordship was a courageous man. He chose a certain path in life, it proved to be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see, I trusted. I trusted in his lordship’s wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can’t even say I made my own mistakes. Really – one has to ask oneself –¬† what dignity is there in that?

What a realisation for a man who has spent his life in the pursuit of dignity.

Here are some other people’s thoughts on this book…

http://mattviews.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/191-the-remains-of-the-day-kazuo-ishiguro/

http://superfastreader.com/the-remains-of-the-day-by-kazuo-ishiguro.htm

http://thebookladysblog.com/2008/12/31/book-review-the-remains-of-the-day-by-kazuo-ishiguro/

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The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton

This month we’re reading¬†The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Selected because Kate Morgan went to the University of Queensland as did one of our book club members.

Here’s the stuff on the back …

A lost child
On the eve of the first world war, a little girl is found abandoned on a ship to Australia. A mysterious woman called the Authoress had promised to look after her – but the Authoress has disappeared without a trace.
A terrible secret
On the night of her twenty-first birthday, Nell O’Connor learns a secret that will change her life forever. Decades later, she embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and the strange and beautiful Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the aristocratic Mountrachet family.
A mysterious inheritance
On Nell’s death, her grand-daughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden are notorious amongst the Cornish locals for the secrets they hold – secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairytales. It is here that Cassandra will finally uncover the truth about the family, and solve the century-old mystery of a little girl lost.

I found this story compelling. I wanted to know what happened to Nell, who were her parents. Ms Morton certainly knows how to write a ripping yarn. The novel is told from the point of view (chapter about) of many different characters; Cassandra, Nell, Eliza etc. Thus the novel also moves forwards and backwards in time – revealing more information (or more red herrings as the case may be). I can see this novel being made into movie (although the ending might not suit Hollywood).

I thought the characters were well written (if a bit cliched) and I do think they live beyond the page.

Overall I liked this book, but it is airport fiction (like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code). However, I thought it was well researched with lots of seemingly disparate threads that came together in a suitable ending.

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Filed under Fiction - Light