Kazuo Ishiguro is one of my favourite authors…and this is only the second book of his that I’ve read. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
The Buried Giant is set in England during the middle ages, a generation after King Arthur reigned. The story follows an elderly couple, Beatrice and Axl, who are on a quest to find their son. While Beatrice and Axl have to contend with old age and deadly creatures, they also have to deal with a mysterious mist that has settled over their lands – stopping anyone from having memories for longer than a few days.
In true Ishiguro fashion, The Buried Giant deals with the concept of loss and the many forms that it can come in. Though a completely new genre for him (fantasy, though he doesn’t like it to be described as such), aspects of The Buried Giant felt familiar – as per usual, Ishiguro makes us examine ourselves and ask questions that we may not want to know the answers to.
Using Beatrice and Axl as his devices, Ishiguro examines memories and their importance. Is it more important to remember everything so that you know exactly what you’ve gone through in life? Or is it better to have forgotten, so that you have time to heal and love again? Can we truly be ourselves if we don’t have our memories?
Yet while these were all absorbing questions, unfortunately they were a bit sparse throughout the novel, and as a result the plot was sometimes slow-going. While Ishiguro’s writing was as beautiful as ever, there were aspects of the dialogue that were a bit jarring, and the repetitive use of ‘princess’ stopped me from getting fully immersed in the story. And though his fantasy world is described beautifully, to me it lacked emotion – while Beatrice and Axl stood out clearly, their background often faded to an uninteresting blur.
However, I do wish to point out that The Buried Giant is positively teeming with metaphors and allegories, and as such, there are bound to be tonnes that flew right over my head. The ones that did resonate however did stick with me, and as with any good metaphor, they have stuck with me ever since. Perhaps most haunting of all was the ending – should I take it at face value, or is it a metaphor for something greater and far more sinister? Essentially, though the story may not have been as compelling as his other works, Ishiguro still managed to drive the same result home – constantly thinking about his novel, weeks after I turned the final page.
PS. Though it is rather fickle, I really, really loved the cover of The Buried Giant, and it is by far the best one I’ve seen all year.
Have you read The Buried Giant? Are you a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro? Let me know!