Ghosts and the sea.
The only four words in the whole wide world that can guarantee I will read a book – no other information needed, no questions asked.
The Haunted Coast by Michael Wray was the perfect November-Sunday read for me, curled up by the woodburner, snuggled inside a big woolly jumper, toasty warm but full of a horrible cold that just won’t go away and leave me alone to breathe like a normal human being. The book was forty-six pages of spooks and Yorkshire legends that whisked me away from my runny nose and aching sinuses into a world of ghosts and ghouls, mermaids and monsters, and a howling, churning, wild North Sea.
The perfect getaway.
The Faerie Thorn by Jane Talbot is a collection of seven short stories inspired by folklore, fairytales and magick. They’re deliciously dark and gruesome – full of faeries, trolls, mermen and maids, shapeshifters, spells, dastardly deeds, bittersweet bargains, nightmarish consequences, and satisfying comeuppances.
Each story is enchanting and slightly unsettling. Their short length gives them an addictive energy that made a refreshing change – kind of apt at the beginning of springtime – after struggling my way through Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The style of writing is unlike anything I’ve read before – it has a lyrical, poetic feel to it which I really enjoyed. I felt like I was listening to the stories being told around a flickering fire, sat right on the edge of my seat, leaning towards the flames, barely blinking, hanging on every word.
I read The Buried Giant without having read any of Kazuo Ishiguro’s other books, which – from looking through some of the reactions to its release last year – I feel might have been a blessing. I had no particular expectations or ideas as to what I would find.
I’ve enjoyed it. It’s not my favourite book in the whole wide world, but it is engaging and interesting, and I feel like it might be one of those stories that stays simmering away quietly in the back of my head for a while.
The story follows Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple who set off to a nearby village in search of their son. Their relationship is intriguing – close, but with a sense of underlying trouble. On their journey, they meet a Saxon warrior, a boy bitten by a dragon, and an elderly Sir Gawain (King Arthur’s nephew).
I was interested that so many complaints I saw for The Buried Giant centred around it being fantasy. It certainly is – you know straight away that you’re in a land of mist, ogres, dragons and pixies – but I found it to be uncomplicated and matter-of-fact. A sort of gentle otherworldliness. There just are ogres and pixies and a strange mist that affects everybody’s memory. But the genre a book belongs to does not determine how good or bad a story is.
My only real complaint would be the dialogue, which I thought was quite dull and strangely formal. There were a few times when it actually became quite irritating. But that could just be me!
I’d be really interested to know what others thought of The Buried Giant. Did anyone else find the dialogue frustrating? Or does having read Ishiguro’s other books make this one harder to like?