The Remains of the Day
What can I tell you. This book is Pride and Prejudice good. The control over the language and the plot is immense. The use of the word costume, which appears twice, is an excellent example. It would be a good book to use to teach the use of irony in all its forms.
And it is a heartbreaking story. Not just because of the ending. Throughout the book we are confronted with a man who deserves our irritation: he knows nothing about the world, nothing about himself, and he seems willingly blind to reality. But his suppressed misery and ignorance of his circumstances is horrifying, so he also evokes pity. This sort of non-approving empathy is not as common in literature as it ought to be. Ishiguro has a clear line back to George Eliot here.
Ever since Homer, journeys have been the central metaphor of literature. This is not just because they are a microcosm for life. People find out what they are like, and what their neighbours are like, when they have to travel with them. Think of all the great characters whose journey went wrong, like Odysseus, or who were unable to go anywhere, like Jane Eyre. 'There was no possibility of a walk that day.' Stevens seems to be both types in one. He takes a journey and yet, in many ways, he hasn't left his starting point.