Written by: Kazuo Ishiguro
Narrated by: David Horovitch
The Buried Giant is a novel about a couple, Axl and Beatrice who go on a journey to visit their son. That much is clear about this novel where so much of it is left for the reader to piece together. The opening passages of the novel tell you that the setting is Briton (before it was England), and the time is somewhere between when the Romans inhabited the nation and modern times. Another phrase that immediately causes the reader to take note is that we are told that Ogres still inhabit the land!
The Buried Giant is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, his first novel for 10 years, the previous one being Never Let Me Go which has been described as a dystopian science fiction novel, so it should be no real surprise that the follow up is in the Fantasy Genre. Ishiguro seems to have grown bored with the traditional settings of the novel and has turned his attention to the sub genres that are generally treated with disdain by ‘serious writers’. It is that Ishiguro does not treat this work with any less respect that makes it interesting. This is no side project or work thrown out between two major novels, instead this is a serious attempt to write something new in the fantasy genre.
Another unusual facet of this novel is the use of memory. The characters seem to live in a perpetual mist, where parts of their past are lost if they do not hold onto them directly, or the memory is not constantly reinforced. If an individual is not seen for a period, then they are forgotten. The reason for this memory loss is revealed as the story progresses, but it can’t help draw comparisons with diseases such as Alzheimers. Whether this is the intention or it is merely a plot device is difficult to know.
On their journey, Axl and Beatrice encounter many characters, such as a knight Gawain, and a child, Edwin. The period of the novel is slowly revealed with the mention of Sir Arthur and Merlin.
The concepts in this are not near as original as those that came from the Lord of the Rings or its sequels. On the other hand, Tolkien was never known for the quality of his prose. In truth, this novel may fall between the two stools, in that those that read Booker winners do not read Fantasy and vice versa. This novel may not receive the praise it deserves, but this is a worthwhile attempt to do something original and quite unique; a literary fantasy novel!