The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro is best known for understated novels like The Remains of the Day, in which a British butler contemplates his life of service to a politician who colluded with and appeased the Nazis, and Never Let Me Go, in which a group of young people quietly accept slow, painful deaths because they are clones meant for organ harvesting. Many fans who eagerly awaited this novel were surprised that it fit into the fantasy genre, with its post-Arthurian setting, its knights, ogres, and dragons. Since Ishiguro is considered Literary, some looked askance at his foray into fantasy, a genre often derided as juvenile. Ishiguro had a fascinating discussion with Neil Gaiman on the topic here.
Personally, I like fantasy, and I like Ishiguro, and I agreed with everything he and Gaiman said in their discussion, so I was super excited to be reading a fantasy novel by a Literary author. The main theme is memory, both individual and collective, and what happens when we forget. The story is about an elderly couple who set off in search of their son. They have been living in the amnesia-inducing fog of a dragon’s breath, and don’t remember much of their pasts, or their son. As they journey, they meet Saxons, Britons, monks, orphans, and knights. They discover their own pasts, as well as the history of their country and its wars of conquest. The prose feels as spare and exact as any of Ishiguro’s other work, with a sweet, rich fairy-tale flavor. It’s thought-provoking and open-ended, a pleasure and a wonder.