Review: The Buried Giant

Posted 2 March, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Buried Giant
By: Kazuo Ishiguro
Format/Source: Advanced reading copy courtesy of the publishers via GoodReads First Reads programme

The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at least the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased.

The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards—some strange and other-worldly—but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.

Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge and war.

Whoo-hoo, a new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro! I’ve read two of his books before, The Remains of the Day (review) and Never Let Me Go (review), having especially come to really enjoy the former, so I was curious to read his latest literary endeavour (so naturally I was flailing when I learned I had won an ARC of this novel). This book will be available on 3 March 2015.

To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this novel. After especially reading Never Let Me Go, I learned that much of Ishiguro’s writing and storytelling is of the subtler contexts, the themes and emotions happening underneath the surface. A careful read is necessary in order to fully grasp his storytelling. And yet by the end of the novel, I still found myself wondering what the book was all about, whether I truly grasped what the symbolism meant or whether the subtler points made by the author has eluded me once again–if there was anything to look for at all 😉 I’ll have to read a few of the author’s interviews to get a bit more context there.

But moving along, the narrative is a lot different compared to his other two novels I’ve read. The story is set on a mythical Britain left in an eerie state of forgetfulness long after the Romans have departed. There are fantastical elements to this novel but it works well with the other mythical elements tied to this dark age of Britain–the legend of Arthur, Sir Gawain, the struggles between the Saxons and the Britons, the absence of anything Roman–but it works for the story, especially when it ties back int the case of forgetfulness that has swept the land. This forgetfulness feels very eerie, with people sort of wandering aimlessly, certainly living in the moment, but otherwise it’s rather frightful as people don’t remember much from their early lives, throws a wrench in relationships, etc. It also starts playing a role later on with characters as I found myself questioning Wistan’s memory and his true nature, his strange fascination with Axl, the quiet shifts in Axl and Beatrice’s relationship, Edwin’s strangeness, and so forth.

Axl and Beatrice were wonderful characters, their story seemingly simple but their love and partnership very strong amidst th forgetful mists around them. Their journey starts of simply enough but they get caught into larger events filled with hostile inhabitants, a dragon lurking about somewhere in the world, suspicious monks, and strange boatmen. The presence of Wistan and Edwin later one introduces the uneasy coexistence between the Saxons and the Britons, and adds a needed layer of danger to the story.

As curious as these elements and these characters were, I did find the story to amble about as the narrative progresses. I started losing sight of the main goal of the story as Axl and Beatrice are drawn into Wistan’s story and his issues. It got interesting towards the end when the answers started trickling in, but I found myself a bit disappointed by some of the reveals (namely Wistan and Gawain’s fascination with Axl); it seemed a bit “larger” when the questions were first posed but the revelation seemed a little “meh” when it came around. While Axl and Beatrice’s story wrapped up nicely (or at least felt emotionally satisfying from the way their story ran), the larger storylines felt a bit incomplete, alluding to larger events to happen but not showing anything for it.

Despite of this, The Buried Giant is a fascinating read, a lot different from anything I’ve read so far this year. Not my favourite Ishiguro novel and not as tight storytelling-wise, but it’s different and curious nonetheless.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Read the author’s biography on the British Council website || Order this book from The Book Depository

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2 Responses to “Review: The Buried Giant”

    • I hope you enjoy The Buried Giant! So far I find that I need to read his books twice to grasp as many layers as I can of what he’s expressing :3

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