- Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)
- McCarthy, Cormac — Blood Meridian (334 pages)
- Moore, Alan & Dave Gibbons — Watchmen (399 pages)
- Moore, Christopher — Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (507 pages)
- Murger, Henri — The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (381 pages)
- Walk with Me: A Lenten Journey of Prayer for 2009 (98 pages)
- Douglas, Lloyd C. — The Robe (438 pages)
- Robinson, Marilynne — Gilead (281 pages)
- Jerome, Jerome K. — Three Men in a Boat (182 pages)
- Satrapi, Marjane — Persepolis (343 pages)
- Dodge, Jim — Fup (121 pages)
- Bauby, Jean-Dominique — The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly (114 pages)
- Fleming, Ian — Casino Royale (219 pages)
- Blake, Quentin — Clown (30 pages)
- Weigel, George — The Courage To Be Catholic (249 pages)
- Ishiguro, Kazuo — The Remains of the Day (255 pages)
Page count: 4117.
I need to be better about logging these books on a timely basis. It has been nearly a month since I finished The Remains of the Day.
I had been curious about Ishiguro for years and have had a couple of his novels sitting in my bookcase for some time. While the back-cover blurb on the other one sounds more intriguing, The Remains of the Day is shorter and his most famous novel, so I thought it best to start there. Ishiguro's style drew me in immediately.
The Remains of the Day is a butler's recollections of the golden days of Darlington Hall, between the two World Wars, recounted while he takes a road trip, his first, to visit a former employee. The few highlights of his trip — a memorable view of the scenic English countryside, a chance encounter with a farmer who was a former footman, running out of petrol in a small village where everyone takes him for a real gentleman — continuously send his thoughts racing back to Darlington Hall. Sure, it doesn't sound exciting, for in this story what plot there is is only a device to frame the main character's psychological journey.
The real excitement is in the portrait Ishiguro allows the butler to draw of himself. We learn early on that we cannot fully trust the butler's story. He isn't dishonest; he's just very reserved, always holding back at first, gradually revealing more and more, and one wonders how well he understands himself. By filtering through his recollections, especially those of his interactions with the former employee, who functions almost as a sort of Greek chorus giving, if indirectly, a more honest account of the various events in the butler's life, we gradually accumulate an understanding about what this road trip is really all about.
I could not put this book down. The Remains of the Day, surprisingly, given how insignificant a role plot plays, is a page-turner. And if his other novels are even close to as good as The Remains of the Day, I would have to rate Ishiguro amongst my favorites.
As you might expect, I watched the movie immediately after reading the book. Often my reaction is that the movie is good but fails in some way in comparison to the book. I can't say that this time. I thought the movie, despite solid performances from Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, was a dud. I question why the movie makers feel the need to change important details in the novel, changes which almost always cheapen the film. Watching this, I felt Merchant Ivory simply used Ishiguro's novel as a pretence to make a period drama. The movie moved at a plodding pace and lacked the charm of Ishiguro's sparkling prose.