This book is so simple yet so complex that a lot of it has just gone above my head. Knowing that it won the Man Booker would make it harder for me to critic it. All I can say is that I enjoyed reading the book very much.
Told from a first person narrative, an aged butler goes on a "motoring" trip to Devon for a well earned break as well as meet his ex colleague who he believes may be interested in coming back to work with him.
On his motoring trip, he reminisces about the wonderful days of Darlington Hall back in the day when it hosted many social events with men of stature where important decisions that changed the course of the world were taken. As he relays his story we realise a few things about him.
He values dignity of his profession above everything else. By this he means that a butler should maintain composer and continue his role irrespective of the situation and never let his true emotions show. He narrates several instances where he had done that and takes considerable pride in it. We understand this trait comes from his father who remained aloof to reinforce the principle.
He expects loyalty to his employer as sacrosanct. His Lord Darlington fell from grace when he sympathised with the Germans and tried to establish peace before World War II. But we see our butler Mr Stevens never questioning Darlington's intentions.
His professionalism leaves him incapable of comprehending human emotions that he refuses to indulge in whether it is witty banter that he believes he must learn in order to please his new employer Mr Faraday or his fondness that borders on love for his former colleague Ms Keaton that he wishes to meet with on the trip.
In a first person narrative, we see things the way our Mr Stevens sees them and then whenever he divulges new information, we peel away a layer of his reality until we understand but not entirely of what things really mean to him.
I suppose that's what makes it a wonderful book to read. We almost also give in to our own perceived reality and rarely do we acknowledge others realities.
This must have been a really difficult book to write. Like method acting, the author would have needed to really become the narrator to be able to divulge information that way.