The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro
1989 Booker Winner, 1980s decade, Man Booker Challenge
I haven't seen the movie, but I would like to now. This quiet book is the memoirs of Stevens, proper butler to Darlington Hall from the 1930s to his present day 1956. Ishiguro has written an amazing book in that this is a character study of the main character, told in first person narrative, and the man has no inner thoughts, a completely flat character. It is completely sad how removed from himself he is without even realizing it. But the book is genius.
Stevens has lived his whole life as a butler and he is very invested in being the best butler, to the point that he has no relationships with anyone - his father, Miss Kenton, or anyone. He doesn't think critically about any decisions of his boss, who, it comes out, was quite the Nazi sympathizer before World War 2.
Later in life, he seems to feel that bantering is a skill he should acquire, as part of his repertoire of a good butler. But bantering doesn't come easily to him. This is typical of his interactions with other people. It is particularly sad when he retells events with Miss Kenton, the housekeeper. He keeps his emotions so bottled up, under the guise of professionalism, that he cannot even offer condolences or talk of anything that is not to do with the job.
Ishiguro offers a view of life in the upper classes in England, and what life may have been like 'on the job'. And he does such a great job of exposing Stevens character without saying anything, especially the parts that Stevens isn't even aware of. Ishiguro is on my list of potential favorite authors now, with two books (Never Let Me Go) that have impressed me.