Review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

by Stephen Tall on November 2, 2016

ishiguroThe Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro

This is the sixth novel plucked from my #40booksby40 list. And what I’m about to write pains me because Ishiguro is one of my favourite writers… but The Buried Giant is a crashing disappointment.

I should say, at the outset, I’m not a fantasy fan-boy. If tales of ogres and she-dragons in Saxon Britain are your bag, then perhaps you will wring more enjoyment from this book than me.

Of course, this is Ishiguro: so the novel’s form is merely a device for subtly exploring the themes which power all his work: memory, loss, identity. Previously, though, he has done this by creating characters we care about in situations with which we can identify. Not this time. Instead we get a sledgehammering, throat-ramming parable which is utterly unengaging.

The protagonists, Axl and Beatrice, are on a quest to find their son, but are hampered by a ubiquitous mist which robs they and everyone else of their memories. Along the way they meet a warrior and a knight, inevitably named Sir Gawain, and discover the cause of their forgetfulness is an Arthurian el pacto del olvido designed to keep the peace.

To be fair, the last 50 pages rattle along pretty nicely, but its scant recompense for the preceding 250.