Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

It would simplify this book to say that an elderly couple set off across Britain seeking their estranged son in another part of the country.  

But whilst they are the glue that holds it all together, this is a richer, deeper tale.  They are Britons.  This is a dark time.  The Romans are long gone.  King Arthur is dead, and only the elderly (and last) knight of the Round Table, Sir Girwain is left.  His mission is to kill the last dragon in Britain.  There are, of course, others in the country who are not Britons.  They are Saxons, and there is still a fragile peace between the two groups, although there is that feeling that civil war could break out at any time.  Then there's the Saxon warrior on a mission, sent by his lord, and a young boy excluded by his village and taken under the wing of Beatrice and Axl, the elderly couple on their journey.

Add to this mix some fables, the boatman across the River Stix, and a few minor characters, and there you have it.  I wanted to love, love, love this book, and at first, I couldn't stop hugging myself for starting it.  The language is something different - of the time, you might say.  The descriptions, though bare, tell you everything you need to know about living conditions, landscape and people's personal habits.  When the young boy is thinking about a girl he once met, the reason she sticks in his memory is that she did not smell of excrement.  Don't be offended by that, just think about it.  In an age where there was no plumbing, and no soft paper on a roll, there must always have been a little hum around people......

Ultimately, I only liked it.  Maybe my opinion is wrong.  You may read and love every page, but towards the end I found my attention wavering - never a good sign.  It is certainly different, but not as good as I so wanted it to be.