Carol / Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Literary Fiction

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro


Axl and Beatrice are a deeply loving Briton couple who find themselves, because of aging, pushed more and more to the fringes of their community. Beatrice decides it’s time for them to join their son who moved away long ago. Their memories of the past are misty and many details hard to recall, but she is sure this is what they must do.


Although the Britons and the Saxons are age-old enemies, a truce has long been in place, its origins also lost to memory, so Beatrice and Axl set off. They know starting out that there will be obstacles – both literal and mystical – but she convinces Axl and he is finally as committed to the journey as is she.


What follows is a tale both fantastical and very human as people and events cross their path, sometimes threatening, sometimes aiding, and sometimes both. Just as Axl and Beatrice have an agenda, so do all they meet en route. Those befriended become betrayers and then switch back – or not! Throughout the journey, Axl and Beatrice are bound irrevocably even when disagreements arise. She knows what they must do and he knows he will never abandon her to continue her pilgrimage alone. For a pilgrimage it has become: to reconnect as a family and also to defeat the source of the mist over their pasts and regain their histories both individually and as a couple. Beatrice sees this end as a blessing since she is sure it will explain some disturbing thoughts (dreams?) she’s had about their past. Axl, too, is having distressing flashback-like experiences not only about their marriage, but also about the wars and his activities before the truce. Journey, pilgrimage, or destined path, they must continue to its end.


As I was reading The Buried Giant and even after finishing it, I found myself wondering: is this simply a continuation of the Arthurian legend after the fall of Camelot and the death of Arthur; is it an allegory for modern times set in ancient times; is it a fable whose fantastical beasts are never openly met yet exert great influence; is it some blending of any/all of these or something totally different? I drew my own conclusions; I leave you to find yours.


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