The Buried Giant
Kazuo Ishiguro's newest novel, The Buried Giant, is a staggering historical-mythical undertaking. The story centers on Axl and Beatrice, elderly Britons living vaguely in the time of King Arthur, who travel through their "troubled land of mist and rain" to find their son.
As Beatrice says: “If that’s how you’ve remembered it, Axl, let it be the way it was. With this mist upon us, any memory’s a precious thing and we’d best hold tight to it.”
Their quest is atypical; they move at a sluggish pace through their obstacles, and the challenges are described in retrospective, not as they experience them. Described as a "luminous story about the act of forgetting and the power of memory," I didn't feel as if it was the most powerful book. But maybe that was the point... The mist of the novel is meant as a stand-in for memory - it makes people forget - and the writing was often purposefully confusing. As one reviewer writes on amazon, which I am inclined to agree with, "The language is oddly stilted though beautiful, and the dreamy misty quality of events and circumstances will either appeal to you or drive you nuts." I oscillated between these two extremes; I thought that the "misty quality" of everything in the book overall contributed to the narrative structure and themes in the book, but it made it difficult to motivate to keep reading. However, I am glad I kept reading. The ending of the story made up for the often befuddling descriptions. Neil Gaiman's review in the NYT sums it up better than I can:
The Buried Giant is a melancholy book, and the mist that breathes through it is a melancholic mist. The narrative tone is dreamlike and measured. There are adventures, sword fights, betrayals, armies, cunning stratagems and monsters killed, but these things are told distantly, without the book’s pulse ever beating faster. They are described unflinchingly, precisely, sometimes poetically.
I'm glad I read The Buried Giant. I don't know if I'm clamoring to recommend it to you because I had trouble finishing it and I'm a reader who typically devours books. What I can say is that it was an interesting meditation on memory, a solid fantasy read, and practically lyrically written. I will definitely re-read it sometime in the future after digesting the ending further.