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Monday, 13 July 2015

Review: The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro

A heavy mist has settled over England as Ishiguro introduces us to his newest novel. Axl and Beatrice are two of many who have enjoyed years of uneasy peace after wars swept the land. They set out to find their son whom they have not seen for many years. Though they know they are married they know little of their lives together, and wonder if the mist is the cause of all the trouble.

Their path to find their son quickly detours as they meet the warrior Wistan, a young boy named Edwin, and an old knight and nephew of King Arthur, Sir Gawain. They travel together through the mist and rain, not knowing immediately knowing whether they encounter friend or foe along the way.

The Buried Giant is a sweeping, lyrical, dreamy story that inextricably weaves love, pain, mystery and fantasy together. As a reader it feels like you're being swept along with the characters, with no clue of where you might be taken. What becomes clear is that no one is who they seem and you quickly learn to second guess yourself as you come upon new characters. As Axl and Beatrice get closer to discovering the cause of the mist and hope to get rid of it, old memories stir but still linger out of sight.  Motives remain unclear and the main characters' peace with each other remains as uneasy as the peace that hangs over the entire land. Briton and Saxon coexist, but who knows for how long?

Axl and Beatrice are a couple whom you fear for and hope for. Despite their age they seem as innocent as children, yet the bond which ties them could not have been forged but for being many years together. Wistan, though deep, is straightforward in his purpose and quickly takes Edwin, a brave but troubled young boy, under his wing. Sir Gawain is the mystery. He preaches and pouts honour and valour and his service to his uncle, King Arthur, but his arc is complex and his character not so easy to define.

What began as a simple journey for Axl and Beatrice to visit their son develops into a quest of self-discovery. You will be moved at their love and devotion to each other. You root for Wistan and Edwin, and wonder at Sir Gawain. Ishiguro masterfully ties delicate threads of half-remembered lives into an almost fantastical tale from a time buried in myth and legend. It's nothing like the books or films you read or watch about Medieval England. The rawness and reality of the story quickly puts aside all romantic notions of that time.

Despite its bleakness the story evokes hope. Despite its pace, it is gripping. The mysteries will keep you glued to the pages and the characters will keep you watching and waiting for their victory.

A highly recommended read.

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