The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a book that was loaned to me by one of my very best friends and other than the fact that she had recommended it to me as a book that was good, I knew absolutely nothing about it apart from the title. I hadn’t even read anything else by Kazuo Ishiguro before.

When I started it, I initially thought that it was a piece of historic fiction – set during a period when the Britons and the Saxons were finding it hard to accept one another, it tells the story of a older married couple who want to head out to visit their son. The problem is that they don’t really remember their son and, indeed, everyone seems to be having trouble remembering things because of a strange fog that erases memories.

The fog was the first hint that this novel wasn’t entirely set within the confines of reality, but as it went on, I thought it felt a little more like a folktale, and even ended up tying into Arthurian legend in a pretty significant way. In the end, it felt like it was making some pretty profound comments about the behaviours of great nations and the things done in the name of war and peace.

I’ll admit that the writing style felt perhaps a little bit too dry for me – never quite going very deep into the emotions of its characters, just giving you a very surface level look, like you’d get with characters in folktales. At first, I thought this was pretty interesting, but by the middle it was starting to drag quite a bit – fortunately, it had such an interesting ending that I didn’t feel bored of it for long.

The two main characters, Axl and Beatrice, are kind of funny at times, the Axl prompted more than a few eye rolls from me. Throughout the book he almost exclusively refers to Beatrice as “princess” which might lead you to believe that he is a really loving and supportive husband, but then every time she’s worried about something, he tells her it’s fine and she doesn’t need to worry, but she’s right pretty much every time. It’s almost certainly intentional, but I found myself thinking that she could do better throughout. One of my favourite characters meanwhile, was Sir Gawain, who’s a shifty little old man – it’s probably the most interesting interpretation of the character that I’ve ever seen.

All in all, I thought it was quite an interesting and unique read. Blending fantasy, history, folklore, and legend, I can’t think of any novel that feels even a little similar. The pacing could definitely be better, and there were some chapters that didn’t really do much for me, but all things considered, I really like what the author was doing with this book.

Rating: 8/10

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