Synopsis: In an England greatly changed by the recent reign of King Arthur, Axl and Beatrice set off on a journey to find the son they have not seen for years. However, in a land fraught with dragons, ogres and mysterious spells, the trek will not be an easy one for the elderly couple. What they encounter will test the strength of the love between them…
I received a copy of The Buried Giant as a free gift from one of my possible University choices for English Literature (shameless bribery)! That being said, I had previously read Kazuo Ishiguro’s books Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, both of which I loved, so nothing was stopping me from diving straight in.
I started reading without expecting a fantasy story, perhaps because the other two books I had read by the same author did not have any fantasy elements. This left me feeling a little bewildered in the first few pages and wondering why ogres had suddenly appeared! However, I soon became immersed in the evocative world that Ishiguro creates.
Although I soon embraced the magical elements of The Buried Giant, a feeling of bewilderment and uncertainty never quite left me throughout the book. Ishiguro’s world of dragons, knights and sword-fights seems initially like the premise of an adventure story, which on the surface it is, but it is also so much more than this.
The fantasy land we are guided through has a strange, ethereal quality that feels somewhat unsettling – giving a sense that the real threat lies somewhere behind the duelling warriors.
I particularly loved the relationship between the elderly married couple, Axl and Beatrice. As much as I relish a whirlwind romance, I was moved by the quiet, understated marital love that Ishiguro portrays.
This is something I have not seen very often in literature and it felt very touching. The characters of The Buried Giant also contribute to the feeling of uncertainty, as we often know little about their pasts or motives.
“But God will know the slow tread of an old couple’s love for each other, and understand how black shadows make part of its whole.”
This sense of uncertainty is maintained throughout the novel. For me, the intrigue it creates was the main drive for picking up the book; even more so than the actual events. It continues right up until the ambiguous ending, which left me reaching for the internet to find out if someone much cleverer than me has managed to uncover some hidden meaning!
However, I stopped myself just in time. Thinking about a personal interpretation of the ending is part of the book’s captivating magic. It raises powerful questions about the nature of forgiveness, memory and love.
I am amazed by the variety of books that Ishiguro can write, from a dystopian sci-fi to an emotionally repressed monologue and now the haunting fairy-tale that is The Buried Giant.
“I wonder if what we feel in our hearts today isn’t like these raindrops still falling on us from the soaked leaves above, even though the sky itself long stopped raining. I’m wondering if without our memories, there’s nothing for it but for our love to fade and die.”
Read if: you want to be immersed in a unique fantasy novel with a powerful message.
Cover image courtesy of Goodreads.
Have you read The Buried Giant or any other books by Kazuo Ishiguro? What did you think? Please do let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!