Books: Upstairs, Downstairs

Downstairs

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY by Kazuo Ishiguro; Knopf; 245 pages; $18.95

For many people, the idea of the great houses of Britain induces reveries of a civilized Eden. Never mind that most of these establishments are now defunct or shells of their former selves; the graceful existence they once accommodated, celebrated in novels and films, lives on. Morning strolls across rolling lawns, with tatters of mist clinging to the ancient oaks and hedgerows. Inside, an assembly of witty weekend guests. Tea at 4; whisky and soda at 6. A sumptuous meal, with candlelight glancing off starched white shirtfronts, bare shoulders...

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