Book Review + Discussion Guide: The Buried Giant

Our book club pick for this month is The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro. In preparation for our meeting next week, I’ve been combing through discussion guides, book reviews, and blog posts. Since you can’t be at our actual meeting, I thought I’d share some of my favorite discussion questions below and see what you think! Please comment with a link to your review, to tackle a discussion question or to disagree with my review!

the buried giant

The description on the back of the book: The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards—some strange and other-worldly—but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another. Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge and war.

Peter Sis

Peter Sis

My Thoughts: I’ve always thought that Ishiguro tells the same story again and again in slightly different contexts. Usually, a character is older and looking back on his/her life trying to piece things together that happened in the past. Upon reading The Buried Giant, two things really stood out to me immediately: 1.) the book is told mostly in the third person and from multiple characters’ points of view, and 2.) the book mostly occurs in the present. By this I mean that although there is a lot of reminiscing and piecing together of the past, the action occurs mostly to the older character, instead of in his/her memories. Ultimately, I thought that this was a refreshing permutation of the same story that Ishiguro loves to tell. I wouldn’t call this story a fantasy novel or compare it to Tolkien, because I don’t think Ishiguro really is trying to inhabit the fantasy world. Instead, he is using these mythical creatures as tools to push the story further in the direction of allegories and fables. The same story could be set on a different planet, a dystopian future, or in the modern day, and it would still work. I really loved this book, I think it’s the best that he’s ever written.

I’d recommend this book to people who like to read Aesop’s fables, fans of Ishiguro, and anyone who likes to contemplate life’s larger questions, such as the nature of time, love, and memory.

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Onto the discussion questions! I’ve pulled these from a variety of sources, which I’ve provided in the links below.  Continue reading

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Books I Read in July

Here are the books I’ve read in July, in chronological order.

Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible: This is probably my fault for leaving this on my shelf for so long, but this book is already outdated, because it was written in 2008. I didn’t find this book as educational or informative as Hyperspace, and I was disappointed in it. I found the book repetitive and tedious at times. I will continue to read books about physics, but it may be a while before I revisit Michio Kaku. The psychic animals that I shared earlier still remains the best part of the book.

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a village lifeLouise Gluck’s A Village Life: I already wrote about this somewhat extensively yesterday, so I thought I’d just leave another part of a poem that I loved, Solitude:

“Now we return to what we were,
animals living in darkness
without language or vision –

Nothing proves I’m alive.
There is only the rain, the rain is endless.”

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Catch-22Joseph Heller’s Catch-22: I am planning on writing a book review about this soon, but what is there to say that hasn’t already been said over the last 50 years? This book is dark, hysterical, satirical, and deeply moving. I never wanted it to end, and I understand now why a girl I went to school with wrote “Yossarian Lives!” on the front of her notebooks and binders. I will try to watch the movie adaptation soon as well, but I am a little nervous to see it as a movie – have you seen it before?

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Speak NowKenji Yoshino’s Speak Now: I have been thinking about Yoshino recently in light of the presidential race. The way that he humanizes and explains the position of those who disagree with him has really spoken to me. It may be easier for him because his “side” won the case, but the book was written devoid of anger and blame while still being extremely personal. I think that is such an accomplishment in and of itself. It is a kind of grace that I find myself lacking, and I try to remind myself of it whenever I am upset with what I read in the news.

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the buried giantKazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant: This was Mary’s pick for our next book club meeting. I’ll be sharing a reading guide and some discussion questions next week as I sift through all of the information out there. For now, I’ll say that I thought this is one of the best books by Ishiguro that I have read recently. I didn’t like When We Were Orphans or A Pale View of Hills very much and was almost ready to throw in the towel on Ishiguro.

Honey Pot Book Club: Starting a Book Club

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to join a book club, but I wasn’t sure where to start. A lot of googling later, I sent out an email proposing a book club to twenty girlfriends and waited to see if anyone would bite. Half a year later, we just had our very first book club meeting! I’m still getting the hang of it, but I wanted to document and share the journey with y’all. I’ll be posting little tips and ideas, stories and anecdotes along the away.

First up, here are few things that I think are worth discussing at your very first book club meeting.

  • How often will you meet? We decided on once every two months.
    • Pros – people in New York City are so busy, and it’s always hard to try to find dates that work for everyone.
    • Cons – if you read the book earlier, it may be hard to remember all the details two months later! There may be a bit of strategic planning and timing involved.
  • What kinds of books will you read? We decided on mostly new fiction, with a mix of other things thrown in!
    • Pros – reading new fiction makes it easier to guarantee that no one’s read the book yet
    • Cons – new fiction means hardcover books and that can get so expensive! Our solution was to try to do a combination of new fiction and old plays and nonfiction – afterall, we are a group of girls that don’t read a ton of plays and nonfiction. How much fun is it going to be to read plays out loud with your best girlfriends?
  • Who’s going to lead the discussion? Who’s picking the next book?
    • I think these go together – the person who picked the book can lead the discussion! We decided on the next book at the end of our first meeting as well as determined an order of who will be picking next. (Next up is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant.)

And a few tidbits I’ve been thinking about:

  • One of the girls mentioned that she loves trivia and so we may try to find some fun trivia questions and facts to kick off our next meeting.
  • Is it just me or are so many people bad at following through? Of the ten girls that seemed excited and committed, it was ultimately only four of us. I’m trying not to let things like that bother me, because we ended up having a great discussion and time regardless. At our next meeting, we probably won’t even bother to invite the people who didn’t show up the first time. After all, you can lead a horse to water… right?

Our next meeting will be in two months – do you want to read along with us? I might try to start an online read-along book club to go with our in-person club. I’m going to call it the Honey Pot Book Club! Are you in a book club? Do you have any tips for me?

Photo Credit: WeeWonderfuls