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review 2018-05-30 13:23
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

The remains of the day was a meditative look at the life of an English butler in the Nineteenth century and one which I really enjoyed.

 

Previously I read Never Letting Go by the same author and although I liked it, it didn’t evoke much emotional engagement. I was therefore hesitant to try this, but at the same time eager to read it as it’s so highly regarded. If I try an author once and am not greatly enthused by their work, I seldom try them again. In this instance, though, I thought it was called for due to the aforementioned reason.

 

The novel follows Stevens, an older man who is one of the few real English butlers left. When we meet him he’s working for an American man who bought the house that Stevens has worked in for many years. The previous owner is dead and this American man kept Stevens on when he bought the estate. As he’s American he doesn’t understand the inner workings of a butler such as Stevens and as such tries to joke around with him. The fact that Stevens finds it hard to respond adequately to such banter, as he’s simply not used to it, is a cause of great concern to himself. He thinks about this and all that has happened over the course of his life when he takes a motoring trip, at the suggestion of his employer, who will be away for several weeks. The novel really begins when Stevens begins this trip across England, taking in the beautiful scenery at various locations. It ends, rather poignantly, when he meets with a female previous member of staff that he had a somewhat close relationship with.

 

Stevens is not so much a man of few words, but few visible emotions. He was a hard character to relate to, but was a product of his time and work. As the novel progressed his quiet emotional demeanour slipped and we got a glimpse into his inner world. The power of the novel was due to the infrequency of this show of emotion and it illustrated so well exactly who and what Stevens was.

 

I had reservations about the novel due to its apparent lack of plot. For all intents and purposes, it’s just a butler who takes a trip to the English countryside. However, it was so much more than this. It was a character study of the highest order. As I read the memories of his past unfolding in Stevens mind and how he reacted, or largely didn’t react, to each circumstance, I felt I got to know him a little bit more. This was very satisfying as it was slow to come.

 

At times the novel was infuriating as Stevens wouldn’t react to most stimulus, but over time the motivations behind this became clear and the magnitude of what he’d lost because of it showed.

 

A quiet, powerful novel.

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review 2018-04-25 23:06
Disappointing.
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

I had heard so much about this author and was looking forward to reading one of his books for our book group.

I started with the audiobook version, narrated by Nigel Hawthorne, but found his voice too slow and the book was dragging, so I did something that I never do - I read it rather than listening to it. Even so, it failed to grab me. I really wasn't interested in "what makes a good butler", a question that was churned over and over through the novel. I actually think I'd have enjoyed the book if this hadn't been overplayed to such an extent.

 

Apart from the above discussion, the book covers some quite interesting aspects of the influence of the wealthy on the outcome of WWII and the demise of the large houses with their extended staff, in the aftermath of the war. There is also a burgeoning love affair that is seriously hampered by the complete suppression of emotion.

 

In my attempt to get through this book before the meeting, I actually watched the movie, which was an accurate rendition of the story, and just as frustrating.

So, would I read another book by Ishiguro? Well, maybe, but I would be ready to move on to something else pretty quickly if it didn't grab me fairly early on.

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review 2018-03-16 11:41
Perfect Remains - Helen Sarah Fields

Luc Callanach has moved from Interpol and his home in France. He has returned to Edinburgh, drawn by a Scottish father he can barely remember and trying to leave behind his past. Thrown straight in at the deep end, his first case as Detective Inspector is to look into the case of Elaine Buxton, when her missing persons case turns into a murder investigation. When another woman goes missing Luc and his team are on a race to find her before she befalls the same fate as Elaine.

 

This book is a break from the norm in that the reader learns about the perpetrator from the very beginning. The opening is quite gruesome, with more than one occasion in the book that may cause a reader to wince or cringe and we see into the mind of a twisted individual. As the story progresses we learn more about this person and what drives them to do the things they do. As the story develops the reader becomes more and more involved in the case and ever more eager for the perpetrator to be caught.

Along side this we see how Luc and his team progress with the case. The reader is privy to more information than the detectives so rather than a whodunit, this story is more of a look at how the police work out who the perpetrator is. This technique is a double-edged sword. It was refreshing to read a book and not be trying to figure out who was at fault. But I also found myself shouting and sighing at the police when they missed an obvious (to the reader) clue.

 

I wasn’t sure what to make of Luc Callanach. There is much to like about him, he is tenacious, driven and forthright. But there are a couple of aspects about his personality that tarnish him, little things that made me not quite like him. It didn’t stop me liking reading about him. His team are a mixed bunch, there are the newer officers, eager to please and less inclined towards judging. There are those who are more defiant, quick to rush to judgement, with obvious effects on the team and the case as a result. Then there is DI Ava Turner. She is acerbic, quick-witted and the perfect partner for Callanach.

 

This was an interesting, entertaining crime drama, with a variety of characters, with interesting back stories and a chilling villain.

 

Perfect Remains is the first in the Luc Callanach series. I look forward to reading more novels featuring Callanach and Turner soon.

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review 2018-03-11 19:07
What Remains True by Janis Thomas
What Remains True: A Novel - Janis Thomas
Wow. Book was way too sad for me. Each member expresses their grief
at the loss of 5 year old Jonah,but the dogs point of view was
kind of way to "out there" for me. But the subject matter was
handled well and with sensitively the author and it was very well
written.
 
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review 2018-02-05 13:36
What Remains of Heaven
What Remains of Heaven - C.S. Harris

Author: C.S. Harris

Series: Sebastian St. Cyr #5

Rating: 5 stars

 

This was a great installment to the series.

 

This time around the mystery involves two murders - their bodies are discovered in a crypt, but they were killed years apart. Sebastian is brought in by his aunt to figure out what is going on... and we are off! There were plenty of red herrings and great incorporation of actual history such as the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and the inclusion of William Franklin, Benjamin's son. Throughout the mystery, you get a feel of what England thought about the newly formed United States. In her author notes, Harris states that she took the character's statements from journals, speeches, letters of the time. Eye- opening.

 

On the character front, Sebastian's life just got a whole lot more complicated. He has found out information that changes everything he knew about himself. Also, Hero reappears. I loved how she was always one step ahead of him, even in the end. Her independent spirit and intelligence really added to the story. I enjoyed seeing them together on the page as she matches wits with Sebastian perfectly,

 

Definitely recommend.  Looking forward to the next one.

 

 

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