The Buried Giant

AuthorKazuo Ishiguro
FinishedMarch 12, 2019
Rating3.4 / 5

Goodreads link

I thought the story itself was interesting, but I felt like there were many holes left gaping at the end. The theme of amnesia and forgetfulness (the “buried giant”) was tied in nicely with the physical symbolism of the mist sweeping across the land.

I liked the ending, tying everything back with the boatman. (I almost cried when Axl asked Beatrice if he could hold her one last time - “But let me just hold you once more”).

It was unclear, however, why the mist affected some more than others, and affected some memories more than others. Why did the mist affect Wistan and Sir Gaiwan less, for example? 

The idea of hidden memories being uncovered and having huge consequences is nothing new, but I liked how Ishiguro explored that at both a macro and micro level.

  • Macro level -- The ruse of Arthurian peace is completely shattered and war is coming.
  • Micro level -- Axl and Beatrice realize that no matter how much they lie to themselves that time has healed their wounds, their love isn’t as strong as they realized. 

I wasn’t too big of a fan of the writing style. The dialogue felt very clunky and awkward. Ishiguro was trying to emulate a certain formal medieval tone, but it came across as anachronistic. His writing in general felt very detached, and while I appreciated that he skipped the flowery language and went straight to what was happening, it got a bit tedious reading his prose after a while.One of my biggest problems was with Edwin. Even by the end of the book I couldn’t tell if Edwin was supposed to be an important character or just a plot device. Wistan spends a lot of time lauding Edwin as having the heart of a warrior (although we as the reader never actually get to see that… we are told but never shown…). At the end, Edwin’s most important role is leading Gaiwan to Querig. All of the pages spent trying to develop Edwin’s character (attempts which I thought fell a bit flat) for that? Seems like a lot of work.

Some other holes that were left gaping at the end and left me confused: Does the boatman only come for couples? Why did he not come for Gaiwan - because he died in battle and didn’t die a peaceful death? Because he hasn’t forgotten anything? Was Edwin hearing Querig’s voice in his head the whole time instead of his mother’s? Is his mother dead? What was the point of the sprite/nymph he untied? The nymph/sprite being tied and dragged around by five men seemed very rape-y….It felt like Ishiguro included fantastical elements in the story in order to point out that humans are the greatest monsters of all. Ogres and dragons exist, but humans cause the most death and the most destruction. In the end, Querig was bewitched by a human (Merlin) and kept alive by a human (Gaiwan) in order to ensure the mist would erase everyone’s memories. In the end, people die not at the hand of ogres but at the hand of men. And the widows -- are they widows because their husbands were killed in the Arthurian wars and they have forgotten? How do they forget their husbands but remember that Gaiwan is the one in charge of killing Querig? They wear black and from far away look like crows. Do they symbolize the crows that the monks let tear apart their skin in their penance?