REVIEW: THE BURIED GIANT BY KAZUO ISHIGURO

THE BURIED GIANT

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Faber & Faber RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

‘There’s a journey we must go on, and no more delay…’

The Buried GiantEver finish a book and be left speechless and with no inclination to pick up another book straight away? The Buried Giant was a bit like that for me. I finished it and just sat there with the book in my hands, pondering what I’d just read. I felt a strange, inexplicable mixture of sadness, happiness, confusion and understanding about the story, and an overwhelming appreciation for beautiful prose. I didn’t read any more that night, just drifted to sleep. The next day, I couldn’t wait to discuss The Buried Giant with Blue Eyes, who’d read it just before me, and had been waiting to talk about the book since.

Rather than paraphrase the blurb, I’m going to let this one speak for itself:

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.

It’s hard to describe this book. It’s nothing like Never Let Me Go, the only Ishiguro book I have read so far (and loved). The Buried Giant is set in a semi-fantasy medieval Britain, long after the departure of the Romans, and in the years following the reign of the mythical King Arthur. There are dragons, warriors, pixies, beasts and knights, as well as ordinary humans (split into two opposing groups, the Saxons and Britons); there are journeys, quests, battles and strange mists that make people forget. It would be easy to classify the novel as a fantasy/adventure and yet, it’s so much more. It’s also a love story and an allegory. Defining it as fantasy is overly-simplistic.

Blue Eyes described the book as “strange, unusual and otherworldly”. He enjoyed it, and coming from someone who rarely reads fiction, that’s high praise. I agree with his description, but would add moving, profound and intense. We talked for hours about Axl and Beatrice and their abiding love, and our interpretations of some of the events and themes. We pondered the meaning of the Hawthorn bush next to the dragon and the pixies crawling over Beatrice as she floated downriver in a basket. For me, the way this book made us talk stands out.

The Buried Giant is not for every one, especially those who bemoan its difference to the Booker Prize winning The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. My tip? Avoid comparisons. Enjoy The Buried Giant for what it is, not what you expect it to be. I loved it.

Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.