Review: The Buried Giant –by Kazuo Ishiguro


buriedgiantThe Buried Giant is an allegory about love, war and vengeance. Set in medieval times, it’s the story of an elderly couple and their journey to find their son. Along the way they meet Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights, a Saxon warrior and a boy. They also encounter ogres, pixies and a dragon.

The author’s intent isn’t clear: is this is a comment on the roots of terrorism or on class grievance in Britain, or just on the long arm of memory? I found the story difficult, and while I liked a sequence with the Saxons and the fiery tower, I didn’t much care for the journey as a whole. Chilblain stories (medieval, northern European settings, no central heating) often leave me feeling cold and damp. And stories in which the narrator’s memory is at fault are reminiscent of that old movie technique where a scene of horrifying violence is followed by (“Oh! Wait!”) the revelation that it was jus
t a nightmare. In fairness, The Buried Giant tells us that that the characters’ memories are clouded. Even so, it’s making heavy weather of a tale when you mistrust the smallest remembrance.

Quests and journeys are not as a rule slender stories, but this book is an exception. Following the moving Never Let Me Go, it  was for me a disappointment.

My rating: 3 stars

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Cruising Along

cheesecakeThe night before my interview with Pastry Chef Vinay Myakal, White Chocolate Cheesecake appeared on the menu at dinner. Of course I chose it—indeed, in view of my interview I felt it my duty to eat both this featured dessert as well as a second, different, offering just to be absolutely sure the quality was no aberration. Perhaps I was unduly skeptical, since this was the seventh night of our cruise, but I felt a duty to be thorough.

Vinay and I met in the International Café at 10am the following morning and I asked him how many of the cheesecakes he and his staff had made. 1650. I had a mental hiccup at this picture.  Some 3500 people were cruising, so Vinay must have reckoned nearly half of them would choose the cheesecake.

The production process lasts three days, I learned. They start by making the base (all sixteen hundred and fifty of them), then add the cheesecake. Glazing and finishing work is done the afternoon before dinner.

Vinay has 17 people working in his department, four of them at night. Pastry-making is a 24/7 operation and they turn out ten to twelve thousand pastries a day, storing them on trolleys in their fridges. They can do wedding cakes with a bit of notice and they always provide birthday cakes to order, baked fresh. They seem to go out of their way to find an excuse to cook, since I was awarded a cake even though my birthday was a week before the cruise.

If I had my life to live over, I might conceivably become a pastry chef. Thanks, Vinay, for some truly delectable sensations.