I have not seen the film based on this book and after all the guffaw over Ishiguro’s “departure” with The Buried Giant I wanted to read the novel most people seem to consider his best work. (Or at least their favourite Ishiguro novel).
And I can see why. This is marvellously written. Not only is it a great exploration of the art of and dying days of servitude in England, it is also an allegory for the decline of Great Britain in the world following the two World Wars.
The story is narrated by Mr Stevens, the head butler of the once great Darlington Hall. Following the end of the Second World War Lord Darlington has sold his estate and the new owner has kept on a small staff including Mr Stevens. The book is told on a road trip Mr Stevens takes to visit the former Housekeeper of Darlington Hall in the hope of convincing her to re-establish her employment at the house.
Over the course of his trip Mr Stevens reflects on his years of service and some of the key moments that have occurred in that time. Mr Stevens is the perfect gentleman, a butler who strived for dignity in his work at all times often at the expense of any form of relationship with others around him, including his own father who taught him everything he knows. Mr Stevens contemplates what dignity means and how being in the service of a “great” gentleman instructs and enhances this dignity. As Stevens’ considers his years of service he comes to the realization that his was probably the last generation to which service was an aspiration but he also begins to question what his dignified service truly cost him.
Anyone who says The Buried Giant was a departure from Ishiguro’s other works needs to have a re-read of his books. Memory is a strong running theme throughout the three books I have read as is a nostalgia for what is being lost or left behind. What makes Ishiguro a great writer is that he can tell such different stories, across different settings and times, while exploring similar themes.
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Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (198mm x 129mm x mm)
Imprint: Faber & Faber Fiction
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publish Date: 2-Apr-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom