January 1, 2015

Book Review: The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Remains of the Day is a well known movie based on a book. I have to say I didn’t see the movie, but I read the book during the winter holidays, after finding out it was the book Jeff Bezos from Amazon considered one of the best (and mistakenly considered the reason he started Amazon as a bookstore). Actually, you can see what Bezos had to say on The CEO Library page: The Remains of the Day.

the-remains-of-the-dayThe thing is… I don’t have too much to say about it. The subject is quite simple: a 50-60 years old butler remembers his life while driving across UK to meet a co-worker from 20 years earlier. He reminisces the history (he was the butler of a British Lord that was involved in negotiations with Ribbentrop during the years before the start of the Second World War) and looks over the decisions he took in his personal life that lead to that particular moment.

I enjoyed parts of the book, but I didn’t really enjoy the entire book. I probably don’t have the feeling of something big missing in my life – I’m not 60, you know – to be able to make a connection with the character, I really don’t know. Also, the rhythm of the book is quite slow and deliberately paced.

Another thing I found weird initially is the way the book is written. The language used is very protocol-like, which is the exact way I would think a butler like Stevens would use, but it was really difficult to read for the initial 20 pages or so.

Finally, would I recommend the book? I enjoyed the 4-5 hours it took me reading it, but it took me a conscious effort, from time to time, to continue reading it and not choose something else in my Kindle library. I actually enjoyed the understanding of the management skills necessary for a butler (it felt like a COO combined with the HR person), but I don’t think it makes the book more enjoyable if you don’t really like the style.

Some quotes:

Indeed, I can say I am in agreement with those who say that the ability to draw up a good staff plan is the cornerstone of any decent butler’s skills. – as I was saying :)

Indeed, the more one considers it, the more obvious it seems: association with a truly distinguished household is a prerequisite of ‘greatness’. – I was thinking of ways to grow as a startup (partnerships with better-known companies and similar things)

An interesting thing: the book is written by a Japanese born person (Kazuo Ishiguro), which was really confusing initially. After that, I found out that he moved early in life to the UK, so it made more sense.