By Luciana Leitão
It’s the story of Mr Stevens, the chief of staff at an English home. But it’s more than that: The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro’s — a British-Japanese author — masterpiece. Brilliantly written, It’s a beautiful profile of the lives of many others in old Britain.
The main character is a man who performs his duty with propriety and dignity, for many years, in the same British house — to the point of letting the love of his life slip. The story starts in the summer of 1956, when Mr Stevens visits a former housekeeper, asking her to return to the position she had left vacant 20 years earlier.
The book is a mystery in itself — the characters are reserved, the narrator — Mr Stevens himself — does not leave out hints of what’s about to happen. As the story continues, you learn to read between the lines, looking for the emotions behind the well-written prose.
The book is also a testimony to a part of England’s history, as Stevens often remembers his former employer, Lord Darlington, someone who died in disgrace, after colluding with the Nazis. Stevens also remembers his own father, who was also a butler, and an example he would like to follow — an example of discretion and of emotion’s constraint until the end.
The Remains of the Day is about class distinction in 1950’s England and about keeping hidden feelings for more than forty decades. More importantly, it is a book about love. As the narrative evolves, so does Stevens’, realising that all that remains for him is the unfulfilled love of his life. And how silence can someone’s biggest enemy.
The Remains of the Day was adapted for cinema, starring Anthony Hopkins as Mr Stevens troubled soul. The story focuses on the troubles of a loyal butler, but it also alludes to real life events, such as the decline of the British aristocracy in the beginning of last century.
The novels allows the reader to get involved with the main character, to the point of exasperation. At the end of the book, you feel as though Mr Stevens is a friend. And that’s how great books should feel.