I knew nothing about this book before reading, and think that’s the best way to approach it.
Seriously, I can’t even bring myself to attempt to summarize the book. Which is useful, because nothing much really happens. The setting of the narrative is a road trip that an old butler is taking, during which he appears to be keeping a journal and reflecting on his career.
So, in one sense, it only covers a week. But it is also one man’s attempt to come to a conclusion about his life’s work – and his life.
I’m sure there’s some rich discussion there, about vocation and dignity and the choices we make…and I trust I’ll have that discussion eventually, since this is one of the books for the Readers Guild.
But what struck me the most, what’s hanging in my head right now as I finish the last page – and quite honestly what I found myself saying every time I put down the book in the past week – is that the narrator is incredibly awkward.
So. Endearingly. Awkward.
Let me share with you one of his introductory musings.
I suspect, then, that I paused rather abruptly and looked a little awkward. In any case, Mr Farraday seized the opportunity to grin broadly at me and say, with some deliberation:
“My, my, Stevens. A lady-friend. And at your age.”
This was a most embarrassing situation, one in which Lord Darlington would never have placed and employee. But then I do not mean to imply anything derogatory about Mr Farraday; he is, after all, an American gentleman and his ways are often very different. There is no question at all that he meant any harm; but you will no doubt appreciate how uncomfortable a situation this was for me.
Embarrassing as those moments were for me, I would not wish to imply that I in any way blame Mr Farrady, who is in no sense an unkind person; he was, I am sure, merely enjoying the sort of bantering which in the United States, no doubt, is a sign of a good, friendly understanding between employer and employee, indulged in as a kind of affectionate sport. Indeed, to put things into a proper perspective, I should point out that just such bantering on my new employer’s part has characterized much of our relationship over these months – though I must confess, I remain rather unsure as to how I should respond.
He then tells us, in excruciating detail, the many ways that he has tried to improve his bantering skills.