The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro took me an age to get through. I started it early last year, ended up reading 60-odd pages, and then put it down until about a week ago.
I stuck with it though, and now I’ve finally finished, here is my review.
The extraordinary new novel from the author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize winning The Remains of the Day. 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.
I felt this book was very slow to get going, filled with passages of dialogue and different character POVs that perhaps you didn’t need.
It starts off with the two main characters of Axl and Beatrice realising they have a son and go off in search of him. There is this strange ‘Mist’ that has since covered all of Britain with this air of forgetfulness. I believe that the cause of the ‘Mist’ is sort of the main plotline, besides Axl and Beatrice’s journey to their son.
There was a fair bit going on, and Kazuo includes a touch of fantasy into the mix with ogres, pixies, and a dragon – who seems to be responsible for the ‘Mist’. I’m not sure the fantasy part of the book was the main part of the plot, it seems more of a device to hint at other themes that are more prevalent. Namely, the absence of memory and whether that absence is good or bad. We see how some characters can use their memory for good or ill, and yet others who don’t have the memories seem better for it rather than finding the loss a hardship.
I also felt there was a lot of conflict hinted at throughout, what with the warrior Wistan and his hatred of the Britons and subsequent revenge that seems to permeate his character. I thought the character of the boy, Edwin, wasn’t necessarily of the age he was portrayed in the book, the language of what was written being far more intricate than perhaps a twelve-year-old boy would have used. But perhaps Kazuo had a reason for that.
Overall, I found the book easy to read, but fairly plodding. The air of drama seemed absent in parts, despite there being passages where a lot was going. There were jumps between past and present that felt a little odd to read as well.
I give the book 3 stars out of 5, as I liked it, but recommending it to anyone I would note that it really does take most of the book to get into. And even then it’s a bit strange.