The Buried Giant follows the journey of an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, as they travel across medieval Britain in search of their long-lost son. Gemma Cockrell shares her thoughts.
Prior to reading The Buried Giant, I had thoroughly enjoyed one of Ishiguro’s other works Never Let Me Go, which is perhaps one of his most well-known novels. So, when I stumbled across a paperback copy of his 2015 novel The Buried Giant in a local charity shop for £2, I was not hesitant to purchase it. I had seen mixed reviews online, with a lot of people saying that it was unlike anything else Ishiguro had written, so I went into the book not knowing what to expect.
Set in medieval Britain during an era of King Arthur, Merlin, Sir Gawain and the divide between the Britons and the Saxons
The first thing I noticed was that his writing style was unchanged; the descriptive tone and his beautiful ability to string words together was still present. The plot, set in medieval Britain during an era of King Arthur, Merlin, Sir Gawain and the divide between the Britons and the Saxons, also touched on the realm of fantasy.
This world was brimming with ogres, demons, pixies, mutant dogs and a dragon powerful enough to cause amnesia that the characters refer to as the ‘mist’. Because of this ‘mist’, it was difficult to know much about the characters’ lives prior to the beginning of the novel, because they don’t even know the details themselves.
The impression are given of the couple at the heart of the tale is that they believe they have undying love for one another. Axl demonstrates excessive care for his wife Beatrice, constantly calling her by the name of “princess” every single time he converses with her. However, we are quickly given the impression that the ‘mist’ is masking something – something they aren’t even aware of themselves.
I found myself racing through the chapters narrated by these side characters
It was the journey of these two characters that I felt myself drawn to the most, rather than the corresponding ramblings of Sir Gawain, Wistan and Master Edwin. I found myself racing through the chapters narrated by these side characters, so I could return to the perspective of Axl and Beatrice as quickly as possible.
Whilst the events of the ending of the novel are hinted at within the earlier stages, I still didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, and I appreciated the slight level of ambiguity that Ishiguro left us with on the final page. He used the art of subtlety to perfection, and valuing the intelligence of his readers, he didn’t feel it was necessary to spell every detail out to us.
The Buried Giant paints marital love in glaring detail, baring all of the pain, anguish, comfort and reassurance that comes alongside it. The historical details of the plot may not be unique to this book in the slightest, having appeared in many other literary works over the years, but I highly doubt that any other author has accompanied them with as many complex and intricate emotions as Ishiguro has.
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