The Remains of the Day is brilliant. Kazuo Ishiguro's ability to portray characters realistically is unsurpassed, and the fading world of the protagonists is described reverently and perfectly.
An aging English butler called Stevens sets off on a quiet motoring tour of Devon in the late 1950s. As he drives leisurely through the English countryside, he muses on times past and the exact nature of 'greatness', a quality which he has strived to attain all his life.
Stevens is perhaps one of the most distinctive characters that I have encountered during my reading life. He is the perfectionist to end all perfectionists, but his demands for everything to be correct are as stringent on himself as they are when he is supervising the rest of the dwindling staff at Darlington Hall. He is devoted to his work and does not let anything-or anyone-shake off his persona of efficiency and manners. This means that he hides his real emotions for most of the book, and is reluctant even to reveal them to the reader. His new master, an American, is fond of making jokey remarks to Stevens which would be unheard of when he was serving Lord Darlington and seem to shock him. His faltering attempts to make light bantering conversation add a touch of gentle humour to what is essentially a rather sad story.
Overall, The Remains Of The Day is a superbly crafted book, with all the plot's undertones of politics, romance, patriotism, etiquette and 'greatness' perfectly managed. One of the best passages has to be where Stevens explains why the English landscape is one of the world's greatest, and if you've ever visited Devon, even in this age of motorways and housing estates, you will see what he means. This book is really one of the best I've ever read, and the 1989 Booker Prize is well deserved. A true, beautiful classic.