Friday, March 13, 2015

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

ISBN: 978-0-345-80940-7

The Buried Giant is a fantasy novel written by a novelist that doesn't usually write fantasy. Sorry for that.

So either we call this book Fantasy (which I would given all the spells and dragons and things that don't actually exist,) or we avoid harsh words from purists and call it "Fantasy Fusion." I'm okay with that one, too.

I'm not a fantasy purist. I've superficially read and enjoyed the genre (basically just A Song of Ice and Fire and Mistborn.) I was not insulted by Ishiguro's foray--in fact I was quite pleased. The only other book of his that I've read is Never Let Me Go which is quasi-science-fiction and I liked it. I will read pretty much anything  when it comes to genres: as long as there is a good story spun in the pages, I don't really care.

It follows an elderly couple--Beatrice and Axl--on their journey through medieval England to find their son who had left many years before. There is word of a "mist" that causes forgetfulness, thus explaining why the two basically cannot remember what they had for breakfast. 

And so they embark, passing through a neighbouring Saxon village where they encounter two more individuals: Wistan, a warrior, and the boy he just rescued from the throes of an ogre, Edwin. The boy is to be exiled because he has been bitten and that is unacceptable in the village; Wistan acts as his keeper and mentor and will take him with him on the mission assigned to him by his king. Fortunately, they are all going in virtually the same direction and Beatrice and Axl are more than happy to have the tag-alongs. 

Further on down the road, the motley crew comes across a knight, Gawain, nephew of Arthur--the very same Arthur that brought peace to England and ended the quarreling of the Britons and Saxons many years prior. It's about this time that we learn that Gawain and Wiston are on the same mission: slay the she-dragon Querig. Guess what: it's Querig's breath that causes the mist of forgetfulness. That makes Beatrice and Axl all too happy to see her killed so they can have their memories of each other, whether they be good or bad, back. It's pretty convenient that everyone wants the same thing.

Of course, they don't all want the same things...That would make for a pretty boring read.

The lost memories in the book reminded me a bit of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in which the two main characters were happy with each other in their ignorance and when their past becomes clear to them, problems arise. At that point it's difficult to change fate--especially when strong emotions are tied into it. Pretty deep elements and very interesting stuff, I think.

There are questions of morality and religion, whether it is possible to atone for sins committed so willingly and blatantly. Is it possible to actually be forgiven or will forgetting the act and pushing it under the rug suffice?

The book is chock full of metaphors as most fantasy novels are, I suppose. Although the book's setting and some of the players involved are thoroughly unbelievable, the underlying issues are very real. You shouldn't really expect less from Kazuo Ishiguro: he seems to have a pulse on the problems of society (at least in what I have read.)

I liked The Buried Giant a lot. The book gave me an opportunity to read fantasy without having to commit to thousands of pages. And if the purists tell him not to quit his day job, well, he hasn't: the man writes good books and doesn't need to be pigeonholed.

So I recommend the book to those of you with open-minds on either side of the Fantasy spectrum.

Side note: If you haven't seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you should really do that. 

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