Axl and Beatrice are a happy elderly couple living in post-Roman Britain. But Axl notices there are things around them that don’t appear to be quite right. Why does the village forbid Axl and Beatrice from having candlelight in their home? And hasn’t their son been to visit recently? Frustrated with the treatment by their fellow villagers, the two set off to find their son, and to understand what is happening around them once and for all.
Honestly, it’s been awhile since I’ve read The Buried Giant, and I still don’t quite feel ready to review it. I’ve thought about it quite a bit since finishing, but I can’t say my thoughts are fully formulated. Did I like it or not? It’s hard to say. What I do know is that I enjoyed parts of it, but I didn’t love it, so I’ll break that down the best I can.
The narrative of The Buried Giant has a strange, dreamlike quality. From the beginning, it’s clear that something isn’t right. Our two main characters have only the vaguest memories, and the tone of the novel reflects that. Everything is softened and fuzzy; it makes the narrative extremely easy to sink into. The book’s pages fly by as the reader absorbs this dreamlike state, wanting to know more about what is happening.
It’s this mystery that keeps the reader turning the pages. Along the way, Axl and Beatrice meet some interesting characters that add even more layers to the story. How are all of these characters connected? Nothing feels like chance in this novel; it seems as though an unseen hand is guiding all these characters together, to some incomprehensible showdown that the reader can feel coming, even if they can’t guess what it might all mean.
Sounds fascinating, right? It was to me. I raced through The Buried Giant, eager to understand what was happening to Axl and Beatrice. I formed emotional bonds with the characters, hoping they would indeed find their son and dreading what might actually be happening around them. And that’s why I had such mixed feelings upon turning the last pages of this book. I was so absorbed, so engaged in this narrative, but the end result just wasn’t great. I didn’t feel that satisfaction as all the disparate pieces clicked together in my head and I saw the whole. Instead, I just felt cheated.
Should you read this? It’s hard for me to say. I love Kazuo Ishiguro, so I’m glad I spent time with The Buried Giant, even if I was disappointed with the ending. The author does an excellent job with the dreamlike tone of the novel; he really makes you feel as if you’re losing your memories, along with Axl and Beatrice. If you’re okay with a vague ending, then go ahead and take a chance with this book. If this is going to be your first Ishiguro, and possibly the only one you’ll ever read, I’d skip it.
Other books by Kazuo Ishiguro: