Picked by Michelle N
Oh my goodness. I am in complete awe of this novel.
It's an adventure that takes place right after the death of King Arthur. A fog of forgetfulness covers the land, so that people can barely remember what happened a few minutes ago, much less what occurred during the war so recently ended. Our protagonists—an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice—dimly remember, somehow, that they have (once had?) a son and that he lives (lived?) in a town nearby. Mistreated by other inhabitants of their own town, they make the huge decision to go visit him, trusting that they will be able to get there, and that once they arrive, he will welcome them with open arms.
The way is impossibly hard. In addition to nobody being able to remember anything except in fits and starts, they must travel on foot, and Beatrice is ailing. Britons and Saxons mistrust one another, the terrain is deadly uncertain even at the best of times, monks have become untrustworthy, and former knights of King Arthur roam the land with new agendas and alliances which they aren't necessarily forthcoming about. On top of all that, there are rumors of a dragon in the land.
This book reads, in many ways, more like a stage play than a novel. There are numerous Waiting for Godot moments. (Also numerous Monty Python and the Holy Grail moments, but in a very solemn-Terry-Gilliam-animation sort of way.) In a couple of places I began to lose patience with the odd Punch-and-Judy-like mannerisms of the characters—especially when monsters were present and/or violence and death were clearly imminent, and the characters just kept maundering on about whatever it was that Mr. Ishiguro felt the scene was really about. But I was always irresistibly drawn along anyhow.
A good thing, too. This is wonderful, eerily beautiful, and deeply moving piece of myth-making. Axl and Beatrice's deep, abiding, and generous love for each other inspired in me a great affection for them both, and then awe. Beatrice's faith in Axl sustains him, even as his enormous, self-sacrificing heart sustains her. None of this is remotely sappy: the reader becomes aware, gradually, of the weight of years and events between them that has caused this love to grow, and of the fact that, like any life-long love, it's not without its flaws and fault-lines. And we never quite know, as we read, what this world will bring them to in the end.
There's a reason why Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Read this book.