The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is one of those books that I would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone.
Told by a butler in a grand house in England, the story takes place in two parts.
In one, the butler, Mr Stevens, is working alongside Miss Kenton between World War I and II.
The house attracts dignitaries from across Europe and America and its owner, Lord Darlington, is considered an informal but influential player in world affairs.
However, a consummate professional, Mr Stevens lets neither his morality or personal affairs impact on the smooth running of the household.
The result of this attitude is clear in the other part of the book, in which Mr Stevens is visiting Miss Kenton many years later.
All is subtlety and unspoken regrets in this beautiful, melancholy novel about service, power, morality, loyalty, responsibility and love.
Along with the personal pain that is suggested in the novel, is the backdrop of the war and the suggestion of the role bystanders might take in world events. When Lord Darlington supports the Nazi party, Mr Stevens faces questions of his own power to make a judgement or create change. His response speaks volumes about his inability to act beyond his responsibilities as a butler.
After recently struggling to read Lessons in Chemistry, with its all-to-obvious morality and messaging, The Remains of the Day felt like a breath of fresh air. Each point was not spelled out for the most oblivious reader – it was all in the showing rather than the telling.
Now I’m settling in to watch the film version with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson and I know it will be just as wonderful as the novel.