The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Hardcover, 345 pages
Published 3 March 2015 by Knopf Canada
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book! And I’ve sure picked a doozy. I meant to review this one about a month ago, but time just kept passing, and I kept forgetting… Perhaps I too have become a victim of the mist… hmm? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though!
This is Ishiguro’s first book in TEN YEARS—Ishiguro,the beloved and renowned Booker Prize winning author. All his books are different, and many of his books tend to bend genres. He does that again now with The Buried Giant.
The Buried Giant is a tale with many, many different layers, just as you would expect from Ishiguro. However, it begins with an opening you most certainly wouldn’t expect from him, the first paragraph including snippets such as this: “Icy fogs hung over rivers and marshes, serving all too well the ogres that were then still native to this land.” Yes, there are ogres in this book. And a dragon.
Set in medieval times in the abandoned Roman province of Britain, Anglo Saxons and Britons are bound in a shaky peace. Our main characters are an elderly couple of Britons called Axl and Beatrice. They live in an underground village, lamenting their age and position. Time has an interesting effect upon the villagers, Axl notices. They seem to forget things. Everyone does. They call it the mist.
For a while now, Axl and Beatrice have been wanting to visit their son who lives in another village. It would be quite a journey for them, especially in their old age. They keep meaning to go—and keep forgetting. They do, however, eventually set out on this journey and encounter many obstacles along the way. They also make friends—a Saxon warrior, and a young Saxon boy, as well as an elderly Sir Gawain the green knight!
On their quest, they know that they want to rid Britain of the mist that clouds its people’s minds. Even Axl and Beatrice cannot recall the details of their long life together—they know only that they love one another. But what is it that the mist is trying to hide from Britain’s memory? Is is best left forgotten?
This is very much a genre-driven book, focusing on the late Arthurian period, drawing on legends and fantasy. Ishiguro takes that and fills it with deeper meaning, spinning his story into one of love, loss, and revenge.
This book, in Ishiguro fashion, is written in an incredibly beautiful way, making even the most inconsequential moments moving. Ishiguro manages to somehow make this strange and beautiful story work, blending history and fantasy into this literary work.
Like I said earlier, this book is a doozy. It’s not too long, 345 pages, but it took me quite a while to read. It has the feel of an allegory, often reminding me of The Pilgrim’s Progress (though not as obvious). It brought back memories from university and the time spent reading Saxon writings. I found it hard to get through this book. It is beautiful and enjoyable, but I found it to be a heavy read. This is the kind of thing I wish I had a professor talking to me about, telling me what everything meant! It would have made the going a lot quicker 😉
That being said, I did still enjoy it, though I often had to take breaks to read something lighter alongside it.
I recommend this book to only to those who like literary fiction or who are really interested in this genre. Ishiguro brings new life to the genre and makes it interesting and complex. However, if you’re not into the genre or into a complex read, you might want to skip over this one.
Please note: I received a free copy of this book from Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions I’ve expressed here are completely honest and completely my own.
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.