Axl and Beatrice are Britons living not long after the time of King Arthur. The old couple live a simple existence in their village, doing their parts. One day they decide they’d like to visit their son, who lives in another village and whom they haven’t seen for a long time. They don’t even remember much about him at all, oddly enough. But then again, they don’t remember details of many aspects of their lives. They just recognize that for some reason their memories are very hazy.
So they set off in the direction they feel is right, having faith they will end up in the right place. Along the way they stop in another village, where ogres have carried off a young man. A brave Saxon warrior, coming through the area, rescues the boy, but a bite mark makes the villagers suspicious of him. So Axl and Beatrice end up traveling for a while with the warrior and the boy. Then they run across the old knight Sir Gawain. Over the course of the story, they begin picking up pieces of information that hint at the life they had before the “forgetting” began, and they find out why there seems to be such a veil drawn over their memories. They even learn that they can reverse it and regain what they have lost. But is it really in their best interest to remember? Forgetting can be a blessing, for individuals and for societies.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s newest book is a fable about collective forgetting and collective memory, particularly as it applies to past atrocities. The Buried Giant can almost seem simplistic at times but can be savored for how it applies to life. Axl and Beatrice, the old couple who make their way through the countryside and through the conflicts, are sweetly adoring of each other, and their story is truly the heart of the book. The conclusion bears this out.
Rated: Mild, for a few occasions of violence and a couple of brief, mild sexual references.