I recently finished reading The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Loved it.
The writing is the opposite of melodramatic. Ishiguro patiently builds tragedy out of everyday life. The narrator is a butler in his later years. During a short road trip, he reflects back on the career that consumed his existence. He grapples with ideas about dignity, purpose, and loyalty. Although he never admits it, one of his biggest concerns is the love he’s missed out on. Has his entire life been a waste? A passage:
But what is the sense in forever speculating what might have happened had such and such a moment turned out differently? One could presumably drive oneself to distraction this way. In any case, while it is all very well to talk of ‘turning points’, one can surely only recognize such moments in retrospect. Naturally, when one looks to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one’s life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one’s relationship…an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable. But I see I am becoming unduly introspective, and in a rather morose sort of way at that.”
The book is funny, poignant, and genuine. I’ll agree with Newsweek’s review: “Brilliant and quietly devastating.”