Against the backdrop of post-war Britain, a butler takes a trip to see an old friend, during which he struggles with his guilt over having worked for an employer with dubious ties to the Nazi Party. The novel consists largely of Mr Stevens recalling memories and so it moves at a meandering pace, but once I adjusted to this I found it beautiful. Some parts are so poignant, like the moment Stevens describes of his father pacing a set of outdoor stone steps “as though he hoped to find some precious jewel he had dropped there.” I won’t fully describe the moment as it will spoil some of its beauty, but it is a heartbreaking one.
The Remains of the Day is poignant and multifaceted, while still being very subtle. I’ve been trying to think of some way of describing how it’s a quiet, slow read but without conveying the idea that its boring, which it isn’t. I suppose the experience of reading it is not unlike that of an art historian slowly, painstakingly removing the dust and grime obscuring a painting or other artwork. Every part that slowly becomes apparent is beautiful, and gradually, quietly, more and more is revealed until, finally, where each piece fits in the larger scheme of things becomes obvious. Each memory is strong and emotional, but it takes some time to learn what they mean in the whole of the plot.