Mr. Ryder, a world-class pianist, prepares for a pivotal recital in an unnamed European city. Much of the plot, as it is, consists of characters delivering long, winding monologues that reveal bits and pieces of the city's bizarre history. Some scenes are very funny (particularly those scewering the cult of personality), others rich with gothic atmosphere. Some are intriguing (such as when Mr. Ryder attends a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey -- starring Clint Eastwood!), some are downright plodding. Overall, though, Ishiguro's writing is wonderfully modulated -- you get the feeling the author intended every word of this 550-page novel. And, since I can't seem to stop turning the pages, consider this a recommendation.