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TRAIN OF THOUGHT
PICK OF THE MONTH
Fascinating and Heartbreaking: A Gracious Salute to the Demise of a Time and Place
This is a fascinating and poignant story of the past that also serves as a brilliant cautionary tale for the present.
The first-person narrator of this extraordinary literary novel by Kazuo Ishiguro is Mr. Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall. He is ostensibly telling the tale of his life's prestigious and highly-valued work as a butler in one of England's great houses. But read between the lines and it is a heartrending story of a life totally devoted to a single man, the flawed and disappointing Lord Darlington, whose political choices and assignations utterly destroyed his reputation—and along with it, perhaps his butler's. So was it all worth it? Stevens not only begins to doubt Lord Darlington, but also himself.
The story takes place in 1956 as Stevens, now nearing the end of his career and working for the wealthy American who purchased Darlington Hall after Lord Darlington's death, travels around England for six days. Most of the narrative is focused on the past as Stevens remembers various significant events that happened during his heyday as the butler in the 1920s and '30s—the feats he accomplished, the mistakes he made, and all that he personally sacrificed. While this is the personal story of Stevens, it is also a story about the demise of a way of life when British society and culture inexorably changed.
Written with sensitive insight and sophisticated storytelling, this is a novel that salutes a gracious and now extinct part of England's history in a highly intimate and compassionate way. But it's also a salute to any time or place when the rules and mores of society are radically shifting, and those who are unable to change with it are sadly left behind.