This is only my second Kazuo Ishiguro book following on from Never Let Me Go. For me, coming off a novel about cloning, I had no expectations about where he would go next. Much has been made about this novel being a “departure” for Ishiguro but I would argue that he has gone back to something far more traditional.
This novel is seeped in myth and legend. Ogre’s are referred to and a strange spell seems to hang over the land. There are mysterious warriors and a renowned Knight of the Roundtable. There are superstitions and folklore to be obeyed and to be wary of. And there’s a journey a couple must embark upon…. (Psst…and there’s a dragon).
We meet the main characters of the novel, Axl and Beatrice, as they go about their daily lives in their village. The narration of the story is at first quite unsettling but you get used to it as the novel progresses. Events are told in a kind of immediate past tense. Rather than the traditional past tense of a story being told after a significant amount of time has lapsed everything is told almost in the direct afterwards of the events occurring.
I wouldn’t call this a fantasy novel, instead this is a novel about legends. The mythical creatures referred to are more often than not off page. Which means that their existences is always questionable. And when they do finally appear on the page there is still sufficient question marks around them.
When you get down to the nuts and bolts of this story it is the classic journey. A journey into a great unknown. A journey into memory and love. It is a post-Arthurian tale that is perfectly apt for this post-9/11 world where the peace and harmony has been built on tenuous foundations. Don’t get caught up in the debate about whether this is a departure or a fantasy. This is classic storytelling told by a complete master.