For Ishiguro’s first novel in ten years this packs a good ol’ punch! Wow, I loved this book it is firmly on my re-read pile (does anyone else have one of these?).
The story, and it is a story in the traditional sense, is narrated by a third person who sets the scene – for the more modern reader – of an England (post the legend of King Arthur) where”icy fogs hung over rivers and marshes, serving all too well the ogres that were then still native to this land“. But do not fear:”ogres were not so bad provided one did not provoke them“. There is a mist that descends this version of England created by the breath of a mythological dragon which keeps all in a permanent state of amnesia.
We join two protagonists: husband and wife Beatrice and Axl who one day decide on embarking on a mission to find their long lost son who (due to the mist inducing amnesia) they cannot remember when they saw last – or where he lives. This adventure sees the elderly couple meet a very decrepit Gawain and enter into some very dubious ‘battles’.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is some attempt at weaving this story into legend. The allegories and metaphors are abundant in this wonderful tale. Ishiguro makes the reader question whether ignorance really is bliss and whether true love really does conquer all.
I continually alternated between wanting the mist to lift for the sake of the couple but to remain for the sake of all of England’s people. The former would allow the couple to easily find their son they so longed for and the latter allowed people of all castes and creeds to live among one another as they had no memory of ever fighting against each other.
The most powerful part of the story for me was the couple’s constant fear that they would not be able to travel to the allegorical island of death together. In order to do so, they must evidence “an unusually strong bond of love between them“. I won’t ruin the story and explain why and how this comes about or whether they make it but I will say that I was left in tears after reading it. There are many ways of reading this particular chapter. I interpreted it to be the journey from life to death – which is what set the tear ducts in motion (on the tube no less!).
This book has made me go out and buy Ishiguro’s other works as if he can write this heart-breaking story in such a light manner his previous works must be worth a read!