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The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

8/10 Sometimes savage, often intensely moving

The Buried Giant is Kazuo Ishiguro’s seventh novel; his previous six winning him wide renown and many honours around the world. His best known works, arguably, are The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, both of which have sold in excess of one million copies and both adapted into highly acclaimed films.

When you open The Buried Giant and begin reading the very first page you will find yourself in a Britain from which the Romans have long since departed. The country is at peace but it is steadily declining into ruin. We meet an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, and join them on their journey as they set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They face many hazards - some strange and otherworldly - but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.

I loved the start of this novel, and I loved the end. But I did not enjoy what came in between. And that in a nutshell is my review. 

The start was enchanting, some authors write so well that they imbue a sense of calm and tranquility within the reader. This began as one of those books. To read it is to feel at peace, the journey of Beatrice and Axl an honour to accompany.  It is a journey into the past, set in a post-Roman Britain pre hedgerows and ordered fields; a time of hard living and abundant superstition. Beatrice and Axl set off to visit their son at a settlement two days walk away. They have little memory of him, of why he left. Indeed memories of all things are hazy and no longer distinct. “This land had become cursed with a mist of forgetfulness.”

The middle was confusing, I often found my interest lacking and the effect this had was that it became a difficult book to actually want to read. I found reading was a chore rather than a pleasure and a constant battle between wanting and not-wanting to give up developed mentally. Even now I struggle to find the purpose of the middle section. What was I supposed to read into it? Was it simply a case of my missing the point? Many readers have adored this novel and so obviously their reading experience was far superior to mine and I can only assume that they ‘got it’ and were able to understand or find meaning in a narrative that completely lost me. Perhaps a re-read would help? It wouldn’t be the first time a story makes more sense to me the second time around.

The end was poignant, beautifully written and I was left with a satisfied, melancholic feeling after turning the last page.

I’ve read novels like this before, novels where reading was no longer pleasurable and at times took on the role of a task that needed to be completed. The novels that I am most reminded of are The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson - hard work to read and sometimes infuriating but ultimately there is something about them that stays with you forever; they leave a mental imprint, never to be forgotten. Maybe the journey sometimes needs to be hard in order to enjoy the ride?

Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, a tale of lost memories, love, revenge and war.

“A deeply affecting portrait of married love.” Guardian
“A beautiful, heart-breaking book.” Observer

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