Is it better to remember or not?

The Buried Giant 
Kazuo Ishiguro

Paperback, Allen & Unwin, released 5 March 2015 

"Let's try Axl. Let's both of us try. It's as if we have mislaid a precious stone. But surely we'll find it again if we both try."

Set in Briton post King Arthur, we meet Axl and Beatrice, an elderly married couple who are struggling to remain relevant in their village. It is a harsh environment that they live in but you soon come to learn that there is something wrong. A mist has settled over the land and people are no longer able to remember, even events that have happened that day are quickly forgotten. Village life is hard for Axl and Beatrice and they are shunned due to their age and it is against this backdrop that Axl and Beatrice decide it is time to visit their son. From here we are taken on a journey of memory, loss, revenge, love, betrayal, pain, and devotion.

"Forgive me, mistress. This country awakens so many memories, though each seems like some restless sparrow I know will flee any moment into the breeze."

The story is difficult to categorise as it is part fable, part allegory, part adventure and part love story. There are ogres, monsters, dragons and an aged Sir Gawain. There are parts that are brutal and heartbreaking. A girl from the village gives Beatrice a candle the savagery of the other women is disturbing, as is the description and use of the cage at the monastery. The cruelty of the treatment of young Edwin having been rescued and then spurned by his family is cruel.

Each character and their relationships are beautifully realised. Axl and Beatrice are such an intriguing couple. You never really know how they came to be together but there is always a mystery about them. Beatrice’s desire to see her son seems rational but as the story moves forward you realise that something has happened. When you discover the truth it is heart breaking. The other relationships are just complicated and intriguing. Sir Gawain’s quest for the dragon is really wonderful and I loved the twist and turns that happened. The Saxon Knight and Edwin’s story is gripping, not just in their individual development but what the Knight plans for Edwin.

"I see how devoutly you wish it, for your old horrors to crumble as dust. Yet they await in the soil as white bones for men to uncover."

Every word is placed with precision, every description so wonderfully crafted that you are pulled into the story. You need to allow yourself to be immersed as I found myself needing to read large sections at a time. The ending, I really liked it, others may not but for me it made sense.

The novel can be read as fantasy but it is so much deeper. I have never read an Ishiguro novel before and I had no expectations. This is a masterful piece of storytelling and beautiful writing.

I was provided with an advance reading copy by the Reading Room and Allen & Unwin.