Much as he did in 2005 with Never Let Me Go, Kashuo Ishiguro divides critics with his new novel, The Buried Giant, just published by Faber.
Ishiguro won the Booker prize in 1989 for his novel, The Remains of the Day, set between the wars in the English mansion Darlington Hall, and narrated by the ageing butler Stevens.
The Remains of the Day was adapted for a highly successful film, starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.
The filmed adaptation of his 2005 novel, Never Let Me Go, was produced with a €13 million budget, earned €8.4 million at the box office and €1.6 million in DVD sales revenue. The book reputedly sold ‘multi-millions’ of copies, presumably when translation is factored in.
It was shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize, for the 2006 Arthur C. Clarke Award and for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award. Time magazine named it the best novel of 2005 and included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.
Interestingly, that novel divided the critics, much as his latest one has, although it must be said, The Buried Giant is winning mostly admiration.
“Fantasy and historical fiction and myth here run together with the Matter of Britain, in a novel that’s easy to admire, to respect and to enjoy, but difficult to love,“ Neil Gaiman wrote in the New York Times.
"Still, The Buried Giant does what important books do: it remains in the mind long after it has been read, refusing to leave, forcing one to turn it over and over,” he added
Writing in the Observer, Alex Preston described the novel as “a profound examination of memory and guilt, of the way we recall past trauma en masse. It is also an extraordinarily atmospheric and compulsively readable tale, to be devoured in a single gulp.”
Eileen Battersby in The Irish Times had serious reservations, although she was careful to acknowledge Ishiguro’s particular strengths in general. “Too much of the narrative is interred beneath a tentative layer of literary allusion,” she wrote.
“At possibly the most dramatic moment in a novel of squib-like climaxes, two men about to engage in mortal combat converse as if they are swapping telephone numbers.
She concludes: “This cautionary, half-hearted novel that is not quite a fairy tale, not quite a fantasy. Instead it dangles unconvincingly somewhere between the two.”