February 2018 Goals

Polabooks Online

On the 1st of January, I wrote a post which set out four writing and reading related goals. I am pleased to report that I achieved the majority of these goals, as you can see from the summary below:

– Edit the first draft of my manuscript. I read (or at least tried to read) all 72,000 words, and as you’ll know from my previous posts, the verdict was not great. I added my notes to the physical manuscript, and made a list of all the most important over-arching changes which were needed. I then took a week or so off, before I sat down and thought about what the second draft might look like, you can read more about my subsequent conclusions here.

– Read The Buried GiantI read The Buried Giant at the beginning of January, and even wrote a book review!

– Read The Wake. I confess that this is the one goal which I did not achieve. I did attempt to read The Wake, but the bastardised Old/Middle English was a little too much for me at the time. I do intend to get round to it eventually, however, so watch this space.

– Update this blog once a week. The completion of this goal is perhaps the most surprising. I set out a very vague schedule in my head at the beginning of the year, but I am incredibly proud of myself for accomplishing it. Let us hope that I can keep it up!

This is the perfect time to set out goals for February, in the hope that this 75% completion rate might hold up for a little longer.

– Write 20,000 words of draft two. I have now started the second draft of my manuscript, and I have resolved to take my time with this one. It became evident with draft one that the scenes which were best were those which I had taken my time to think about, and write without distraction. Therefore, I am going to set my sights low in terms of word limit, in the hope that I will achieve quality, rather than quantity.

– Read ElmetI purchased a signed copy of this book today, and I am intrigued by the fact that the author is a fellow medievalist. I am not aware of any medieval influences on the narrative, but I am excited to read a book which has garnered so much critical attention already, especially as a debut!

– Read The Sealwoman’s Gift. I also purchased a copy of this book today, and I am extremely excited to read it! The setting is 17th century Iceland, and (although it’s superficial) the hardback cover is absolutely stunning, so I am very excited to give this novel a go.

– Update this blog once a week. Let’s see if we can keep this up! 🙂

What are your February goals? I’d love to hear them.


Book Review : The Buried Giant

Book Review_The Buried Giant


The Buried Giant is a fantastically tender tale. Elderly Britons Axl and Beatrice set out to visit their son in a nearby village. Their journey is quickly diverted off course, and they become the travelling companions of Wistan, a Saxon warrior from the Fens; Edwin, a promising young lad shunned by his village, and Sir Gawain, the last remnant of King Arthur’s court. The plot which unravels represents a unique combination of historical, fantastical and literary fiction, and the narrative proves to be both delightful and immensely endearing.

Although there’s a fair share of action, The Buried Giant is fundamentally a character-driven novel. Axl and Beatrice are highlights among the cast of players, and it was extremely refreshing to see a large part of the story through Axl’s eyes, particularly in a historical/fantasy setting. These genres tend to favour younger and able-bodied heroes, but Axl and Beatrice’s ailments and struggles made their journey feel much more tangible to the reader.

My favourite character by far was Sir Gawain. Ishiguro dedicates two chapters to Gawain’s reveries, which are bumbling, aimless and digressive in the most charming way. I was extremely excited to hear that Ishiguro was somewhat inspired by Sir Gawain and the Green Knight whilst writing this novel, and I think this influence shows most in his depiction of Sir Gawain as a figure travelling through the dangerous English landscape, with ‘no fere bot his fole‘ [no friend but his horse].

As with Axl and Beatrice, much of the innovation of Gawain’s character comes from the fact that he is reaching the end of his life. In fact, this innovation applies to the setting of the book as a whole. Ishiguro expertly navigates the dying influence of Arthur’s court; a unique perspective which has not been thoroughly explored in fiction (historically, writers have preferred to track the rise, and then the fall), and although King Arthur does not feature prominently in the novel and (as far as I can remember) does not have any dialogue, his tracks can be seen everywhere in The Buried Giant.

When researching the book, it quickly became clear that there has been much discussion about the genre of The Buried Giant, and in retrospect I feel that the attention drawn to this topic is unwarranted. The Buried Giant mixes genre no more than any of Ishiguro’s other works. Never Let Me Go, for instance, mixes science fiction, romance and literary fiction. However, it should be said that the inclusion of fantastical elements in The Buried Giant is particularly masterful, and Ishiguro weaves them into his world so effortlessly that they become a believable part of the landscape. Furthermore, the use of these tropes does not sacrifice any of the literary significance of the work, rather it adds to it.

There was one major point of contention which I had with The Buried Giant: the use of multiple points of view. The multiple narrators worked well at times, supporting various plots, sub-plots and character arcs with ease. As ever, Ishiguro’s use of the first person is strikingly effortless, and this is most evident in the chapters dedicated to Gawain’s reveries and the final chapter, which I will not spoil. However, I was somewhat disappointed on the first occasion when the perspective moved away from Axl, and I couldn’t help feeling that I was far more attached to him as a narrator than any of the other points of view which emerged. Out of all of the narrations, Edwin’s was by far the weakest and I found myself rushing through his chapters to reach something more interesting.

Overall, The Buried Giant is a fantastic read, particularly for any individual with an interest in medieval history, literature or language. Ishiguro approaches the setting of post-Roman Britain with sophistication and nuance, and resists trying to fill in too many gaps or make too many assumptions. As an exploration of collective trauma and the quandary of remembering versus forgetting, it is sublime and I would very much recommend it to any interested readers.