Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Remains of the DayThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book(first: Never Let Me Go) by Kazuo Ishiguro that I've read. This is a quick read(I read it on vacation in about a day or so). Though the two are quite different in content, I think I have a sense of his style/writing technique.

With intransigent problems, human nature is to avoid deep thinking on the subject. In order to live daily life in relative happiness, our brains ignore things we can't change. But every once in a while, we're forced to confront them.

Ishiguro carefully builds undercurrents. The narrator of the book withholds emotional information, sometimes drowning themselves in minutiae, tangents, or technical details, in order to avoid discussing the main point. Often times, the tangents appear to have real weight, and often entertain in themselves, but they're used as a way to draw your mind away from the central problem. But eventually, you begin to feel the shape of the emotions. In the end, you feel the same sense of lost opportunity as our butler does. One review describes the resolution as devastating. This might be an overstatement, but the tragedy is palpable.

I feel like I need to justify why this literary fiction deserves 5 stars when I gave but 3 to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Both novels are introspective, atmospheric, and set in important historic times. In character, plotting and tone, Ishiguro has superior skill. His characters are more likable, his plot more satisfying, his tone is more deeply woven into the narrative. Both books are tragedies, but The Remains of the Day attains a catharsis, while McCullers' tragedy never breaks the surface. In other words, Ishiguro is just better at it.

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