The Book of Sawce, Chapter 4 – A Book Published This Year

Despite the Holy Grail being on the cover, I had no idea this had anything to do with Arthur.

Despite the Holy Grail being on the cover, I had no idea this had anything to do with Arthur.

That took a while, huh?  Yes, after quite a hiatus, the Sawce is back taking on the reading challenge.  This one took a while mainly because there hadn’t been a book to come out that I was interested in reading.  I mean, we’re only two months and some change into 2015, so that shouldn’t be too surprising.  Still, I’m way behind schedule on this particular task.  Better late than never, though.  So, without further ado, let’s talk about Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, The Buried Giant.

Our main characters are Axl and Beatrice–an old, married couple living in a British community shortly after the reign of Arthur.  They seem content, even though they’re forced to live more uncomfortably than their neighbors (ex. they don’t get a candle…for some reason).  Although, both are bothered by the fact that they–and everyone else–just seem to forget almost everything.  No one knows why and only a few are even aware of it.  One day the two finally set out on their long-talked-about journey to their son’s village a few days away in hopes of possibly moving there and being with him in their twilight years.  Along the way they are joined by the Saxon warrior Wistan, who may or may not have ulterior motives; Wistan’s newly-recruited Saxon apprentice Edwin, who seems to be on everybody’s “to kill” list; and an old knight tasked by Arthur himself to slay the she-dragon Querig, Gawain.  That’s right…Gawain.  No Green Knight, though.

This is a very dreamlike fantasy novel.  I wasn’t even sure it was fantasy until Wistan returned with an ogre’s shoulder (that’s fun to say) after rescuing Edwin.  The whole book, though, feels like a dream.  I’m writing this shortly before I intend to go to sleep, and yet I feel like I’ve just woken up.  It’s a strange feeling.  I’ve never run across a book that made me experience that.  Not entirely sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing, but I do suspect it might have been one of Ishiguro’s goals.  Maybe.  Never read one of the guy’s books before.  I don’t know what he intends.  Another cool thing about this book is the title.  There’s a mention of something early in the book you might think it’s named after, but only at the end do we really find out what the titular buried giant really is.

As I mentioned in the caption to the pic, I didn’t know this would belong to Arthuriana.  Heck, I don’t even know if that’s the Holy Grail on the cover.  Actually now that I type that, I think I might know why the Grail would be on the cover even though it never shows up.  If my guess is correct, then kudos to you, Mr. Ishiguro…or whoever decided on the cover design.  I was quite giddy when King Arthur was mentioned, and I might’ve done (i.e. I did do) a Daniel Bryan “YES!” when Gawain was revealed as the knight out to slay the dragon.  He’s always been one of my favorite Arthurian knights–right up there with Kay and Dinadan (I know…I have weird favorites).  Unfortunately this is the Gawain of later tales who’s not exactly the best guy around.  He’s a pretty good guy, though.  Just…well, read the book.  Let’s say I do not envy him his task.

This is not an easy book to start.  The chapters are long, and the early going is super slow.  Then again, we’re following two old folks on a quest, so maybe that’s to be expected.  Not entirely sure how much I like this book, though.  It’s weird because a lot happens, but not a whole lot happens.  There is a plot, but at the same time, you’re sometimes unsure of what the goal is.  Going back to what I said earlier, it’s very much like a dream.

All in all, if you’re looking for a small fantasy that feels kinda like a vision-quest, or if you’re looking for a new piece of interesting Arthuriana, I’d suggest giving The Buried Giant a shot.  It’s not the easiest book to get into, but once it gets you, you’re not easily walking away.  Next on the list for the reading challenge is a book with a number in the title.  What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

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