This novel did not benefit by the way I read it—in fits and starts over the last few weeks. It has a dreamy and fantastic tone, but I just couldn’t get emotionally invested in it. As a result, it felt more “sloggy” to me than I would have liked. There are parts of it that I found intriguing, but mostly I felt like I was reading a variation on Waiting for Godot—people talking and talking and waiting for something that never seems to come.
Ishiguro tells the story of Axl and Beatrice, two elderly Britons, who leave their village on a journey to visit their son, who they barely seem to remember. There’s a lot of that going around—people seem to have trouble remembering anything of their past lives, whether it’s the Saxon warrior, Wistan, that the couple meets first or the elderly Sir Gawain and his horse, Horace. This is England post-Roman-occupation and maybe post-King Arthur where Britons and Saxons seem to be living in an uneasy peace. However, as Axl and Beatrice make their way across the countryside, they not only encounter many dangers but they also begin to remember things—about their past and about the country’s past.
There are both realistic and fantastical elements at work here and a lot of metaphors—some that worked and some that felt heavy-handed. I wanted to like this more than I did but the truth is, I was happy to finish it so I could move on to something else.