My first response to The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, is “this is fantasy?” I mean, really, it has a dragon, ogres, and one of Arthur’s knights. And the boatman. And the giant sleeping under the hill. And an uneasy peace brought on by the fact that people don’t remember much that happened over a week ago, and nothing over a month ago. But this is an existential tale of aging, memory and relationships. The fantasy elements could be removed without changing much of the story. Axl and Beatrice could have been citizens of the 21st century wandering away from their Alzheimer’s facility.
This feels like a cautionary allegory, but I’m not sure what the reader is being cautioned against. Memories can be bad as well as good. If you peel off the top layer, the second layer may be worse. Well, duh. If you pick at a scab, you will probably bleed.
Don’t get me wrong, there was enough in the story to keep me reading to the end. I think Ishiguro chose the wrong time and place for his story. I liked Axl more than other reviewers seem to have done. He was fuzzy around the edges, but he never wavered in his devotion to his “Princess.” Unfortunately, Beatrice could have easily been an animal he cared for, for all the personality she had. I’m told the book merits a second or third reading. I won’t be wasting my time.