Salman Rushdie in The Guardian:
The surface of The Remains of the Day is almost perfectly still. Stevens, a butler well past his prime, is on a week's motoring holiday in the West Country. He tootles around, taking in the sights and encountering a series of green-and-pleasant country folk who seem to have escaped from one of those English films of the 1950s in which the lower orders doff their caps and behave with respect towards a gent with properly creased trousers and flattened vowels. It is, in fact, July 1956 – the month in which Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal triggered the Suez Crisis – but such contemporaneities barely impinge upon the text. (Ishiguro's first novel, A Pale View of Hills, was set in post-war Nagasaki but never mentioned the bomb. The Remains of the Day ignores Suez, even though that débâcle marked the end of the kind of Britain whose passing is a central subject of the novel.)
Nothing much happens. The high point of Mr Stevens's little outing is his visit to Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper at Darlington Hall, the great house to which Stevens is still attached as “part of the package”, even though ownership has passed from Lord Darlington to a jovial American named Farraday who has a disconcerting tendency to banter. Stevens hopes to persuade Miss Kenton to return to the hall. His hopes come to nothing. He makes his way home. Tiny events; but why, then, is the ageing manservant to be found, near the end of his holiday, weeping before a complete stranger on the pier at Weymouth? Why, when the stranger tells him that he ought to put his feet up and enjoy the evening of his life, is it so hard for Stevens to accept such sensible, if banal, advice? What has blighted the remains of his day?