Pages: 77 / 245; 31%
The Reason for the Reaping: A critically acclaimed novel by one of the best voices in modern British literature. Another work of his, Never Let Me Go, hits in all the right places. Also, it’s about a butler. What could go wrong?
As I Lay Summarizing: A butler named Stevens is having what may be shaping up to be an extreme existential epiphany as he takes a cross-country road trip in 1950s Britain, because apparently that’s what butlers get to do on vacation (when they even get vacation). An extremely critical thinker, Stevens attempts to dissect a slew of recollections concerning his previous employer, Lord Darlington, as he cruises down the countryside. His voice is one of the most lovingly dignified–and sometimes pretentious–ever encountered in literature, or anywhere.
The Line That Killed Me: “Resolved not to waste further time on account of this childish affair, I contemplated departure via the french windows” (58). Death by laughter.
Best Character: Stevens
Why [As] You Like It: Stevens is incredibly astute and his meditations about his life and career are with a diligence that brings both envy and incredulity. I can barely look half as close at my own life (if I can even remember it that clearly) without wanting to avert my eyes, and Stevens does it with genuine curiosity and candor that makes me want to learn right along with him. His extremely formal syntax, punctured with lines like The Line That Killed Me, makes for a seemingly stony character who shines with humanity and wit in surprising ways. Simply put, I like Stevens and wish he was there to write my papers in college. He’s smart, his meditations are thought-provoking, and he’s unique. I definitely have a soft spot for him
Why I’m Gone, Girl: The story is not plot-driven, and a traveling narrative filled with page after page of reflections and slow-boil drama may become taxing after 200 pages. We’re heading somewhere (I hope?), but we aren’t getting there fast. Currently, it’s only the second morning, and he’s driven to Salisbury, which for all intents and purposes is right up the road from Darlington Hall. If intense philosophical rhapsodies were not in my wheelhouse, 77 pages would be quite enough.
Last Line, Last Chance: “…them. And they, knowing me to be one not prone to…”
Will I turn the page, or toss it into Mount Doom?
Prone to what?! While not for everyone, Stevens’s meditations are keeping me riveted. An existential epiphany awaits! I turn the page gladly.