Mini Reviews: The Buried Giant, Outline and No Such Thing as Failure

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The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Five words from the blurb: Romans, Britain, couple, journey, son

I loved Never Let Me Go so was looking forward to reading Ishiguro’s new book. Unfortunately they were very different in style and I failed to bond to any of the characters. The Buried Giant has a fairy-tale like quality and there was a lack of emotion throughout. The reader is kept at an arms length from the action and this lack of engagement frustrated me. I know that there are clever allegories running beneath the surface, but I didn’t care enough to investigate them. I started skim reading after about 100 pages and nothing I saw drew me back into the text. Recommended to those who enjoy modern fairy-tales and analysing books for hidden messages.



No Such Thing As Failure: The Extraordinary Life of a Great British Adventurer

No Such Thing As Failure by David Hempleman-Adams

Five words from the blurb: British, explorer, highest, peaks, poles

I got this book from the library because the author was coming to do a talk there. Hempleman-Adams has achieved an extraordinary number of feats – including climbing the highest mountain on every continent and reaching both poles. I admire everything he’s done, but I wish I had just listened to his 45 minute summary of the book instead of reading it in full. No Such Thing As Failure is simply a catalogue of his adventures. He does reveal the problems he faced, but there was no tension behind them. I’m sure this is just a reflection of his calm nature, but I prefer a bit of peril and emotion in my adventure stories! 



Outline: A Novel

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Five words from the blurb: woman, Athens, writing, meeting, indistinct

Outline is beautifully written. Each character springs vividly to life and I admired the atmosphere that Cusk managed to create in just a few short pages. Unfortunately the book failed to come together as a whole. It felt more like a series of short stories and I was frustrated by the lack of plot. I appreciate what the author was trying to achieve, but I prefer a book with a plot and a more conventional structure. 


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  1. Diane says:

    So disappointing about The Buried Giant

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, Yes, I know a lot of people will love the fairy-tale style, but it wasn’t for me :-(

  2. David says:

    I’m still looking forward to trying the Ishiguro (‘Never Let Me Go’ is a favourite and I also liked ‘Remains of the Day’ and ‘When We Were Orphans’) – the emotional coolness of his work doesn’t bother me as I like books with an elegiac or melancholy tone, BUT phrases like ‘adult fairy-tale’ normally send me running for the hills!

    I feel I ought to want to read the Rachel Cusk – I very much enjoyed ‘The Lucky Ones’ and quite liked ‘In the Fold’ – but it isn’t shouting out to me for some reason. I can think of dozens of books I want to read more… maybe if it makes the Orange (sorry, I still think of it as that, same as I still think of the Costa as the Whitbread) shortlist I’ll give it a go.

    1. Jackie says:

      David, I occasionally like books with an emotional distance, but they really need to be outstanding for that to happen. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed an adult fairy-tale before though. I hope you have better luck with it than I did!

      I haven’t read anything written by Cusk before so I’m afraid I can’t compare this with her others. I suspect you might enjoy it as the writing quality is so good. I think it will probably make the shortlist so I look forward to comparing notes then :-)

  3. JC Sutcliffe says:

    I’m hearing such mixed reviews of the Ishiguro. I’m number 37 on the library waiting list, so I’ve got a while…

    1. Jackie says:

      JC, Yes. The Buried Giant is splitting opinion! I hope that you enjoy it more than I did once you get to the top of your queue :-)

  4. Annabel says:

    I loved the Ishiguro – so I’ll even things out, but it’s definitely a bit of a marmite book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I haven’t seen anyone take the middle line on the Ishiguro yet. It definitely divides people!

  5. I have heard very mixed things about The Buried Giant. I love the themes Ishiguro has said in interviews he wanted to explore in this book, but you are far from the only person who’s said that the book wasn’t engaging.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, Yes, his interviews are far more interesting than the book!

  6. parrish says:

    it’s a shame this didn’t appeal, as there’s been a lot of noise around this book & I may still read it at some point.

    1. Jackie says:

      Parrish, Yes. About half of people really enjoy it. It depends on what you’re looking for in a book. I prefer a bit of emotion and plot. :-(

  7. Ellie says:

    Like you I loved Never Let Me Go which left me in an emotional mess. I guess I’ll be prepared for The Buried Giant, which I have, to be different. I do like a fairy tale style now and then so hopefully I’ll enjoy it more.

    1. Jackie says:

      Ellie, If you like the fairy-tale style I’m sure you’ll appreciate this one. I look forward to reading your review.

  8. Bellezza says:

    I’m undecided about The Buried Giant. You know how I love Japanese literature, and yet…mixed reviews, or ones which didn’t love this book such as yours, have me unprepared to buy it. Maybe I’ll see if our library has it. Probably not…

    1. Jackie says:

      Bellezza, The Buried Giant isn’t Japanese literature – it is about as English as you can get in terms of style and content. I think trying the library is the best idea!

  9. David says:

    And now I’ve read Outline, also on the Giller Prize longlist (though, really, who knew Rachel Cusk qualified as Canadian?). I admired it’s ambition enormously and enjoyed the way it forced me to slow down since seemingly every other sentence expresses an idea or an opinion deserving of thought. But it also reminded me of the semiotics seminars we had when I was doing my MA – there’s something rather academic about it (and I can see why it is ending up on so many prize lists as it undoubtedly will appeal to the writers who judge them, being as it is in part about the craft of writing and meaning and expression), which of course can be interesting, but didn’t make it a novel I felt I enjoyed a great deal. And I’m not sure if she didn’t tell us too much about her narrator for her to truly function as a negative space or an absence that proves a presence. Different to read a novel where the central character is (other than her going to Athens in the first place) almost entirely passive though. But like the other two of Cusk’s novels I’ve read I suspect given a few months I’ll have largely forgotten what this one was about.

    1. David says:

      “its ambition”… ignore that rogue apostrophe!

      1. Jackie says:

        David, You’re right about this being forgettable! I vaguely remember the initial scene in the aeroplane and a few scenes somewhere hot, but most of it has now disappeared from my brain. Sentence craft may appeal to writers, but, although I admired it at the time, it didn’t make any long term impact.

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