I’ve only read one other Ishiguro book, ‘Never Let Me Go’, though he always pops up on my to-read list. I picked this one up in a charity shop, one of those glorious places which has a “3 for £1” table! Seeing as it won the Booker Prize, I thought it was worth 33p.
The plot is based around the character of Stevens, a butler in a grand house somewhere outside of London. The story starts in 1956, with Stevens starting essentially a roadtrip to Cornwall (woohoo!) to visit an old friend, the former housekeeper of the same house. The rest of the story unfolds through flashbacks and memories as we find out about the people that Stevens has met throughout his career and the pivotal moments throughout WWII that occurred in the house in which he works.
There’s a quote from a review on the back of the book describing it as “dreamy” and “beguiling” and I have to agree with the first of those. Slow-paced and with a painfully formal protagonist, the plot unfolds in layers, revealing more about the central characters and subtle hints of the events of the past, reminding us of the impact of the war on everyone, no matter how far removed from the battlefields.
I finished the book feeling almost unsatisfied and frustrated with the character of Stevens, so bound by his deferential personality that he couldn’t express his feelings, even to his dying father. It’s an interesting story, but not one that I felt particularly affected by or attached to, so it’s going back to the charity shop for someone else to enjoy.
A respectable 6/10