This is the first fantasy novel of acclaimed Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro. Previously, I have read The Remains of the Day, an incredible book that was turned into a successful film of the same name. Although creating a fantasy novel is a huge departure from his usual setting.
In many ways, this book contains the same themes as the Remains of the Day. The Buried Giant is still a story of love, memory, tragedy and time, just in a different wrapper of genre and plot devices.
The Buried Giant (excellent dramatic title – that would have sold books purely on the name alone) is the story of an elderly couple Axl and Beatrice, who wander through the British landscape in order to find the village where their son lives.
The book is set in the period just after Roman settlement of Britain, where fantastical creatures roam, including dragons and troublesome pixies. There are also elements of the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain remixed into the plot. As well as mysterious boat men offering to transport them into the afterlife.
Axl and Beatrice encounter these phenomena in a self-conscious way, as though the entire book was written with awkwardness in mind. The entire plot of the book feels incredibly self-conscious and none of the characters have any inner world, discernible personalities or even reasons for existing in the world of the novel.
The main thrust of the novel is Axl and Beatrice are wandering around in a sleepy, somnambulant way, with a high degree of amnesia and confusion. This gives the book a slow, ponderous and dreamlike quality that can really test the patience. There is a sense of something just about to happen, but nothing ever does. A lot of pointless conversations happen which don’t add volition to the plot.
However, in one of the most spectacular fails of a narrative resolution – we never really find out what exactly Axl and Beatrice are running away from or denying in their lives. The meaning of the story is never fully revealed, this makes it incredibly frustrating to read. I admit that I only made it two thirds of the way through and then I looked at Good Reads to see what everyone else was saying about it and about the conclusion as well. I really wanted to like this book but in the end I just couldn’t. 1*/5