July 23, 2012
The Remains of the Day: The Second Time Around
A few months ago, I wrote about how I don't do rereads. The reason is simple: I find it a waste of time and effort – time that could very well have been spent reading a new book. With the speed at which I accumulate books (for every one that I read, I acquire another two or three more – you do the math), I always find whittling down the TBR pile a perpetual problem. So many books, so little time. Right you are, Frank Zappa.
However, this month, I was compelled – no, morally obliged – to pick up an old favorite for a very rare reread. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro was chosen as this month's book for the F2F discussion, which my best bookish buddy is tasked to moderate. Last month's designated book was the first volume of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, which I read way, way back. I attended the discussion but didn't find it necessary to reread it, and got away with just browsing the portion about Tom Bombadil (which everyone was discussing online!) and letting it known to Maria, our dear moderator, that I wished to be exempt from picking a question. It was a fruitful and interesting discussion, but I felt bad that I wasn't able to actively participate – even if I had already read the book.
With Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, it will be different.
Initially, I planned to listen to the audiobook, for a different “reading” experience. Unfortunately, it just wouldn't load. So I downloaded the movie version, just to reacquaint myself with the “feel” of the English setting. I just finished rereading it in time for the forthcoming discussion and, just like the first time, I marveled at Ishiguro's talent. How many times will I cite the things I love about his works? The quiet quality, the reflections, the melancholic atmosphere, the way he makes my heart just full to bursting when I close the last pages?
And it's not just the beautiful prose. The Remains of the Day spoke about significant themes that every one of us can completely relate to: loss, regret, missed opportunities, loyalty, and of course, greatness and dignity. Mr Stevens' life story tore at my emotions the second time.
When I first read this book, I gave it 4 stars on the basis of my 5-star rating to Never Let Me Go, which I had previously read and liked so much more. I've had quite a lot to learn since then, one of which is to judge or rate a book based solely on its own merits and not in comparison to others – whether written by the same author or not. After a chapter-by-chapter deconstruction and more in-depth reread of The Remains of the Day this time around, I feel that my previous rating did not do justice to it – neither did my non-review, for that matter. This discourse is hardly an improvement of the first, but who cares? The Remains of the Day deserves the highest rating, and that's what I am now giving.