Author(s): Kazuo Ishiguro
The extraordinary novel from the Nobel Prize-winning author of Never Let Me Go and 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.
Ishiguro’s new novel was my most anticipated release of this year, so I was unbelievably excited when a review copy came in from the Allen & Unwin representative. Thank goodness this lived up to (and even exceeded) my expectations. Set in 6th Century Britain, it follows an elderly couple who set out from their village to find their son. I knew nothing about this going into it, so it took me a little while to place it in the fantasy genre. However, this is fantasy in the same way that Never Let Me Go is science-fiction, so the emphasis is on the characters’ relationships and their inner lives. The fantasy elements are there to create a framework for the themes of memory and love that motivate the characters. There is a mist covering the land that causes people to forget elements of their past, so everyone is an unreliable narrator. A few typical Ishiguro traits can be found, such as the emphasis on memory and sparse but evocative description, but it is unlike anything he has written in the past. This is the kind of book that Tolkien might have written had he decided to focus on rich characterisation and relationships rather than the landscape. There are some treats for fans of British legend too, as this is set not long after the death of King Arthur. - Holly
The Buried Giantby Kazou Ishiguro is an amazing novel. Set in the past, at the time of Saxons and Britons, it is a historic fantasy. It takes this period and mingles it with beasts (dragons and malign pixies), mythology and superstition in what can only be described as an unexpectedly compelling read. Delayed by a 'forgetting mist' which makes their memories confusing and their intentions vague, an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, set out on a journey after many years of contemplation to find their son. As they journey, they rediscover themselves, glimpsing moments of their past and piecing together what their life and love has been, and conversing what death brings. They also find themselves drawn into the mystery of the mist and the task of a Saxon warrior to slaughter the dragon Querig. With such compelling imagery as an old woman holding a rabbit and gripping a rusty knife, an aged Sir Gawain wandering the craggy mountains on his trust steed Horace, and the compelling enchantment of the boatman, this novel will take you on a journey as reader that will leave you wondering and contemplating the metaphorical cleverness of this author to talk about aging, loyalty, betrayal, peace and war in such an unusual setting. Ishiguro pulls off a masterpiece that a lesser author would have struggled with. - Stella
‘There is a journey we must go on and no more delay…’ is a pivotal line in Kazuo Ishiguro’s most recent book, The Buried Giant. It centres around the elderly Beatrice and Axl, who are compelled to set out on a journey in search of their son; it is complicated by a mist that hangs over the land, robbing its inhabitants of memory. This novel is set in Saxon England and combines legend, fantasy and history. While reading this I had a strong sense of the impact of war and peace, and also the acts of justice and vengeance and how these are informed by memory. In exploring in a fictitious space, the bonds and differences between people are also considered. This is an intriguing and wonderfully crafted read by an outstanding author. - Sarah
This ought to have been an awful book but instead it is a wonderful book. In an extended lull in the wars between the Britons and the colonising Saxons, an elderly Briton couple set out to join their son, who long ago left for the next village. The land is covered with the ‘mist of forgetting’, which erases personal and collective history and makes sustained intentional action nearly impossible. They fall in with a Saxon warrior (who has come to kill the dragon whose enchanted breath is the mist of forgetting (oops: spoiler)) and a Saxon boy who has sustained a strange bite, and, at various times, they encounter Sir Gawain, the late King Arthur’s nephew, now elderly, cantankerous and occasionally prone to dischivalry and mental slippage. I don’t want to write too much about what happens, partly because it is important that the reader accompanies the couple in their slow struggle towards narrative memory, and partly because Ishiguro takes great pains to keep the reader from becoming absorbed in ‘the action’. Especially towards the beginning, distance is maintained by an unidentified intrusive narrator saying things like “there would have been elms and willows near the water”, and, throughout, the tropes and clichés of both historical and fantasy fiction are rigorously deflated, and what could have been ‘dramatic’ bits are treated in a deliberately cursory manner compared with the attention given to the glimmers of temporal consciousness shielded by each of the characters. In fact, as well as being an extended meditation on the nature and ambivalent power of memory, the book can also be read as an analogue of the writing of fiction: characters are slowly defined by personal and collective histories, both as narrative is wound about them out of the mists of undefined potential (the setting of this novel in a time where the line between mythology and history is undrawn (at least psychologically) is appropriate) and as their back-stories are induced by slowly moving towards recognition of what it is in their past that propels their actions. For Ishiguro, memory, as well as making identity and sustained intention possible, is the mechanism by which personal and collective trauma forces itself upon the present and upon which further harm is predicated (“vengeance relished in advance by those not able to take it in its proper place”). Ishiguro, never one to write the same book twice, has written a very unusual, thoughtful and, ultimately, deeply involving book. - Thomas
There's a journey we must go on, and no more delay ...
Shortlisted for Bookseller Industry Awards Fiction Book of the Year 2016.
Kazuo Ishiguro's seven previous books have won him wide renown and many honours around the world. His work has been translated into over forty languages. The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go have each sold in excess of 1,000,000 copies in Faber editions alone, and both were adapted into highly acclaimed films.