Ishiguro's works are quietly tragic. Never Let Me Go and The Remains of The Day seem to be very different, one is almost sci-fi, set in the future or some alternate universe, while the other is set in early 1900 England. But both are quiet and quietly tragic, dealing with wasted lives.
The book follows a butler of the old order, Stevens, as he goes on a rare vacation, a six day drive to visit an old colleague, a housekeeper. On the trip, over, real time happenings only set the stage for reminisces by the old butler on his life if service to Lord Darlington, his time together with Ms. Kenton, the housekeeper, and of his father.
Stevens has served Lord Darlington his whole life, forsaking his own pleasure and indeed, his own life to serve the Lord he so admires. He aspires to acquire the quality which he believes makes a butler GREAT. That of dignity. It is heartbreaking to read that in his quest for that elusive quality, he forgoes love and even family. Oh he is a good person with feelings, but you would never know it from looking at him.
The book tells the story of a lost love, that betwee, Stevens and Ms. Kenton, one that was not even acknowledged. It tells the story of a man stubbornly holding on to ideals that are not applicable in the present world. Of a life spent in service to a man, who, perhaps did not deserve it. Did Stevens go through all that lengths to be prefession in order to avoid living? To avoid loving?
It is a sad story, but it also has hints of humor and a lot of warmth. Really, I just really felt for Stevens and his beloved dignity, and for Ms. Kenton and her lost love.