This is one of those books that I've always meant to read. Or at least, I meant to read it for some time before and some time after I saw the film adaptation in the early 1990s, then I forgot about it.
What’s interesting about reading the book for the first time now, almost twenty years after seeing the film, is how strong the influence of the film is in my head. Not particularly the plot – it was only just now, reading the summary of the plot of the film in Wikipedia, that I realised how it diverges from the plot of the novel – but the characters. Even though the actors who have portrayed the characters in a film do not usually determine my response to characters in the novel from which the film is adapted, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone other than Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson when I think of Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton.
This is no bad thing. I consider both Hopkins and Thompson to be actors who can truly inhabit the characters they portray. And Ishiguro creates characters made to be inhabited. While the themes explored in the novel are inherently interesting, it is the characterisation – in particular that of Mr Stevens – which really makes the work shine. Although not particularly likeable in his rigidity and emotional sterility, Mr Stevens nevertheless emerges as a fascinating and tragic character.
This novel has everything I like about good fiction. The prose is beautiful, but not complex. The characters are well drawn. The themes are interesting. What an accomplished writer Ishiguro is! Now to read more of his work.