The Buried Giant is the first Kazuo Ishiguro book I have ever read. It will likely be the last.
I usually quit reading books this shitty, but since everyone sings Ishiguro’s praises, I figured I must be missing something. I was bound and determined to find some masterful writing, a grand transformation, an enlightening look at the human condition, or even just a good story. If I was supposed to find any of that, it was lost on me.
The Buried Giant is essentially a quest led by elderly couple Axl and Beatrice. Growing weary in their village, with a mysterious mist that takes away their memories, they embark on a journey to find their son’s village. On their quest, which is set not long after the reign of King Arthur, they are joined by Sir Gawain, a Knight of the Round Table, and they run into evil monks, dragons, and even ogres.
So is this fantasy? If fantasy is what Ishiguro was going for this is really pedestrian. With lousy storytelling and an utter lack of character development, this is barely passable as Arthurian fanfiction. Though in statements Ishiguro has made, starting a feud with fantasy darling Ursula Le Guin, he doesn’t really look at it as fantasy. No worries, Le Guin, it’s the most boring fantasy I’ve ever read, so don’t waste your breath.
So is this a fable? Is Ishiguro using fantasy elements to add the themes of growing old, forgiveness, loss, and love? Eh. If that was the point, it was also weak.
So, literary fiction? If that’s the case, where is the character development we usually find in literary fiction? It’s hard to get a feel for characters when the story is told almost entirely with awful dialogue. So much is told after the fact through someone’s long, boring account, or between lengthy conversations where characters try to figure out a situation. Yawn.
And I could go on and on about how unrealistic the dialogue was when it comes to characters addressing each other. Almost every time Axl spoke to Beatrice he called her “princess,” and almost every time she spoke to him she said his name. Even in dire situations they still make sure to address each other. The most annoying thing about the book is reading “princess” again and again and again.
To be honest, I really don’t care if this novel fits into any sort of category, but I’m just trying to suss out what this is so I can try to find something good about it. There are reviews calling this book profound and exceptional and I’m left wondering where the hell that was. Is past love of Ishiguro’s work making them dig to try to find something resembling enlightenment?
If this was supposed to be profound, my book jacket must’ve been wrapped around the wrong book. I can easily say this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. What a waste of time.
Aw, LeAnn, sorry to hear this didn’t float your boat – it seems to have divided people pretty dramatically. I must admit, I liked it, but I’m commenting because I just wanted to say: don’t give up on Ishiguro. This is definitely not a typical Ishiguro novel (if such a thing exists) so I would skip over something like The Remains of the Day on its account. You’d be missing out on a great book in that case, and something really quite different from this.
My review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro