The Buried Giant

Knopf. Mar. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780307271037. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385353229. F
Imagine an existence without memory. Lacking context, would war become obsolete? Or family strife? This is the concept introduced in Ishiguro's latest, which appears ten years after his acclaimed Never Let Me Go. Set in first-century England, this parable revolves around Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple tired of living in the dark. Fleeting memories haunt them but disappear with the morning mist. Did they once have a son? When did he leave? Why? They set out on a journey looking for answers but, as befitting a quest novel, obstacles abound. Axl and Beatrice are plagued by ogres and pixies, joined by a Saxon warrior and an errant knight from Arthur's court, and have their lifelong devotion to each other tested in disturbing ways. Though the book is wildly different in setting and style from the author's previous fiction, fans will recognize familiar themes, including the elusiveness of memory and the slow fading of love. Alas, Ishiguro's reliance on a tedious, repetitive back-and-forth conversation between the couple detracts from the story.
VERDICT Ishiguro's career spans over 30 years, highlighted by Booker winner The Remains of the Day and Whitbread winner An Artist of the Floating World, yet this quasifantasy falls short as the medium to deliver the author's lofty message. [See Prepub Alert, 9/8/14.]
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