The 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