There is an unnamable mysterious quality to Ishiguro’s novel. Words like sly, minimal and simple come to mind, but none describes the work completely. Yet those are some of its discernible qualities. It does not feel the author is trying to do much at any point of time, maintaining an even, muted style of the perfect Englishman. But the magic is achieved just by that very manner, successfully lining the work with a tinge of sadness. Just the right amount.
Mr. Stevens, the quintessential English butler, has much to look back upon, in an illustrious career with one Lord Darlington. He perhaps carries the banner of butlerism higher than most, for nothing else in life has been of greater interest or importance than fulfilling his duty in the service of his lordship. In the sunset of his career, he looks back upon his life during a road trip in the English countryside that he undertakes to meet one of his earlier acquaintances, Mrs. Benn, the erstwhile Miss Kenton who served under him in Darlington Hall, and who had, in his heart roused strange, unexplained feelings that were never expressed. At the end of the rather amusing journey however, his unshakable faith in the “dignity” of his profession is a bit shaken.
Emotions, in the typical English way, are held back, but do not go unnoticed in the novel’s sparse, restrained narrative. It evokes a picture of the all English butler of a bygone era, a feeling of nostalgia for the same.
A thoroughly deserving award (Booker) for a thoroughly well written book. Now for the movie, which I cannot wait to see. Who could be better than Anthony Hopkins as Mr. Stevens?