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Kazuo Ishiguro's 'The Buried Giant' receives mixed early reviews

Some critics have found the book to be 'difficult to forget' and 'lyrical ... beguiling,' but others called the writing to be 'tedious' and 'flat-footed.'

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    'The Buried Giant' is by Kazuo Ishiguro.
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Reviews have been mixed so far for Kazuo Ishiguro’s upcoming book “The Buried Giant.”

Ishiguro is the author of such acclaimed works as “Never Let Me Go” and “The Remains of the Day.” His upcoming work is set in a long-ago England in which pixies and dragons live, and he noted in an interview with The New York Times that it’s a departure for him. 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?” (He said that when he showed his wife an early draft, she said, “None of this can be seen by anybody,” according to the NYT.)

“Giant” won’t be released until March 3 and reviews so far have been mixed. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews were two publications whose staff were won over by the book, with both giving “Giant” starred reviews.

“Conversations are formal and stilted, but their carefully crafted formality lends an austere rigor to the proceedings,” said PW writer Lydia Millet. “The Buried Giant is a slow, patient novel, decidedly unshowy but deliberate and precise – easy to read but difficult to forget.” 

And KR staff wrote that the book is “a lyrical, allusive (and elusive) voyage into the mists of British folklore…. The premise of a nation made up of amnesiac people longing for meaning is beguiling…. Ishiguro is a master of subtlety…. Lovely: a fairy tale for grown-ups, both partaking in and departing from a rich literary tradition.”

However, Library Journal writer Sally Bissell of Florida’s Fort Myers Lee City Library System found that “Ishiguro's reliance on a tedious, repetitive back-and-forth conversation between the [central] couple detracts from the story…. [T]his quasifantasy falls short as the medium to deliver the author's lofty message.”

And New York Times writer Michiko Kakutani called it “ham-handed", saying that "Ishiguro seems to have renounced the qualities – precision, elliptical understatement and indirection – that lent his two masterworks, ‘The Remains of the Day’ and ‘Never Let Me Go,’ a tensile strength, and he’s instead embraced a fablelike primitivism that hobbles his instinctive talents. Worse, he has failed here to create a persuasive or fully imagined fictional world…. [H]is prose remains flat-footed throughout — vaguely inflected with a forced old-timeyness that’s more mannered than convincing. The symbolism is also obvious and strained.”

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