The remains of the day
I knew nothing about this book before I started, and little about the author.
I picked it up on a whim. The plan was to listen to something whilst exploring the country paths and lanes of the area I had just moved to.
Straight away, I hated it. Grand country houses and their rich residents. Urgh. I braced myself for Julian Fellows style nostalgic fantasy. My phone was buried too far out of reach to switch the book to something else. I would let this dross run until there was a good point to pull over and choose something else. Through gritted teeth, I listened to our butler protagonist fawn over his masters.
But I never did switch it off. Instead, before I could stop, it gripped me so hard that I listened to the rest in a single sitting.
I never would have picked this book up if I had read the blurb. That would have been my loss. The setting is not the point of this book. Instead, we get an exploration of a life wasted and the role of repression and delusion in covering that up. As I wheeled through pleasant country lanes I heard our butler struggle with ‘Englishness’ and class. As I set out, passing country estates, our butler began his defence of the ruling elite in dripped disclosures. By the time I turned for home, they had added up to a picture of inter-war aspirations, arrogance and failure.
A beautiful book, it reminds me I should keep space for a whim or two in my reading pile.