The Buried Giant

Kazuo Ishiguro's newest novel, The Buried Giant, is a staggering historical-mythical undertaking. The story centers on Axl and Beatrice, elderly Britons living vaguely in the time of King Arthur, who travel through their "troubled land of mist and rain" to find their son.
As Beatrice says: “If that’s how you’ve remembered it, Axl, let it be the way it was. With this mist upon us, any memory’s a precious thing and we’d best hold tight to it.”
Their quest is atypical; they move at a sluggish pace through their obstacles, and the challenges are described in retrospective, not as they experience them. Described as a "luminous story about the act of forgetting and the power of memory," I didn't feel as if it was the most powerful book. But maybe that was the point...  The mist of the novel is meant as a stand-in for memory - it makes people forget - and the writing was often purposefully confusing. As one reviewer writes on amazon, which I am inclined to agree with, "The language is oddly stilted though beautiful, and the dreamy misty quality of events and circumstances will either appeal to you or drive you nuts." I oscillated between these two extremes; I thought that the "misty quality" of everything in the book overall contributed to the narrative structure and themes in the book, but it made it difficult to motivate to keep reading. However, I am glad I kept reading. The ending of the story made up for the often befuddling descriptions. Neil Gaiman's review in the NYT sums it up better than I can:
The Buried Giant is a melancholy book, and the mist that breathes through it is a melancholic mist. The narrative tone is dreamlike and measured. There are adventures, sword fights, betrayals, armies, cunning stratagems and monsters killed, but these things are told distantly, without the book’s pulse ever beating faster. They are described unflinchingly, precisely, sometimes poetically.
I'm glad I read The Buried Giant. I don't know if I'm clamoring to recommend it to you because I had trouble finishing it and I'm a reader who typically devours books. What I can say is that it was an interesting meditation on memory, a solid fantasy read, and practically lyrically written. I will definitely re-read it sometime in the future after digesting the ending further. Rating: ★★★


One Plus One

The first book I read in 2016 (happy new year!! Here's the books I read in 2015) on the recommendation of my grandmother and aunt was the wonderfully delightful One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. The road trip tale of a single mother and her two kids who need to get to Scotland for a math competition and end up being driven by a tech millionaire who is running away from his own problems is a wacky premise (think Little Miss Sunshine), but it is a book that sucks you in and doesn't let you go. Moyes explains that she wanted to "write a road trip for the ages" and when she "started thinking about the differences between today's haves and Have Nots, it suddenly seemed like the perfect thing to put some very different people together." It's the perfect beach read -- or book to bring on an airplane -- because the story is emotionally engrossing without being too complex (the catchphrase is: "One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You and After You.") You have a feeling that everything may work out just fine, but you don't quite know. And that small bit of doubt pushes you to keep reading. Moyes masterfully balances funny and sad at the same time creating a heartwarming mix. Ultimately a delight to read. As The Boston Globe writes (and I love the description so much I just have to include it):
Moyes has an unerring sense for the serious as well as for the ridiculous, and “One Plus One” shimmers with both unyielding warmth and canny incisiveness. While it tackles the desperation exposed by the chasm of income inequality and the horrific aspects of bullying, it also catches the more enchanting elements of life’s rich pageant from “the magnificence of total strangers,” to that moment when someone first notices the relaxing effect they’re having on another person and experiences the joyful epiphany of realizing that they are exactly where they belong.
Rating: ★★★★

2015 Books

Happy happy New Year, here are the books I read in 2015...
(hyperlinked to blog posts where I've written about the book & marked with (D) when it was a book I read for class at Dartmouth)