The Buried Giant

My experience with Kazuo Ishiguro has only been Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go.  The more I’ve read of Mr. Ishiguro’s, the more I enjoy his style.  He begins his narratives very subtly developing conflicts and characters and builds towards endings that pack a punch. The Buried Giant departs from his usual content, while he tackles re-imagining British mythology.

The world of the story is post-Arthurian where the Britons and the Saxons are living agiantmongst each other, slowly building the cultural milieu we now call, British.  Mr. Ishiguro alludes to Beowulf and King Arthur throughout the novel, and it’s understandable.  How can you not allude to the most famous British mythological tales?  With these foundational details taken care of, the plot becomes a quest narrative with Axl and Beatrice trying to make their way to their son’s village.  They are Britons and have to stop over at a Saxon village on their way.  They end up having two Saxons join them for the remainder of the trip.  Along the way they run into Sir Gawain (King Arthur’s nephew) who helps them complete their mission while also completely a secret mission of his own.

This was going to be a 3 star rating until I reached the ending. Such sharp, intense writing that leaves a strong impression on a reader. That deserves recognition. The plot doesn’t have much meaning to it which was why I was thinking it had earned 3 stars. I was excited by the “Beowulf” reference and the Sir Gawain character, but other than these allusions I’m still lost as to the what the point of the story is.

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Never Let Me Go

There are only a handful of novels that have made me want to cry in order to purge myself of the myriad emotions upon reaching the conclusion.  I’m not a crier.  Unless it’s weddings, graduations, and sports events.  But after reading this book I really envy my wife who can cry for five minutes wipe her eyes and move on with life.  Not so with me.  After shutting the book, or most likely tossing it across the room out of sheer madness for making me feel like this, I tend to sit there catching my breath trying to process everything.  Only besides The Book Thief have I felt as bad as Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro made me feel.

NeverNever Let Me Go is told by Kathy, one of the three protagonists of the novel.  She begins in her current time and flashes back to her childhood in order to explain her story.  It’s hard to give a plot summary without spoiling anything.  The crux of the book is that the readers are just as in the dark as the characters are about their purpose in life and the challenges they will face.  You do notice odd things about the characters’ upbringing and, while Kathy doesn’t seem to be aware that these things aren’t normal, we do.  As the novel continues and Kathy becomes more aware of the differences between the life she and her friends lead and the lives everyone else is living, we readers are suddenly brought to the poignant truth of the purpose of Kathy and her friends’ lives.

This is a haunting book in the sense that halfway through it you have an idea that not all is well in Kathy’s world.  And you don’t fear for her–you pity her.  Ishiguro does an astounding job of making Kathy a reliable, well rounded narrator and character in her own story.  She’s very similar to Nick in The Great Gatsby.  Her innocence in life is reflected in the way she tells her story.  Which makes it all the more harrowing when she realizes the direction her life is going to take.

Before I spoil anything I’ll wrap this up by saying that this is going to be one of those books I’d take to a desert island and reread over again.  I’m going to miss spending my days with Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth.  And I suspect you will too.

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