Here as promised, the latest novel to come from the extraordinary mind that is contained in Neil Gaiman’s skull.
This was never meant to be a novel. You’ll hear or watch interviews with Neil saying it started as a short story about a family and a suicide. In writing about his childhood for his wife Amanda while she was away in Australia, this story of the South African Opal miner and the women who lived on a farm became a fully fledged novel with heart, tragedy and an astonishing way to cut into your own childhood memories.
The story is of a man who comes back to the place he lived between the ages of seven and twelve, a compulsion brought on by attendance of a funeral. His trip back home invokes a series of memories from the time the lodger committed suicide in the family car at the bottom of the lane, an act which unleashed new and dangerous forces upon the Earth. The only thing standing in the way of this danger are three women of varying ages, the youngest of whom claims the pond in her garden is the Ocean.
So much for the synopsis. This is what you’ll find in the blurb and, hopefully, no one in their reviews will say much more plot wise.
This is a beautiful tale, simply told but with complex themes and ideas permeating throughout. It is the ideal starter novel for those unsure if they would be a Neil Gaiman fan.
For me, it invoked the childhood innocence and fear that he so expertly drew on for Coraline, whilst also having very real and grown up themes and situations that are more reminiscent of Neverwhere. There are things in this novel to give you nightmares, but not necessarily the supernatural. Very real, very human aspects of this story brought me close to tears on several occasions. Remembering being seven years old and scared of your father shouting, that brought back memories of being terrified of invoking any kind of anger in adults.
The supernatural and other-worldly nature of this novel is both terrifying and fascinating in equal measure. I can see why people have been saying that, despite these elements, it’s as though this book has been written about their own childhood. It really does have such a nostalgic feel to the whole thing that you can’t help remembering your own experiences at seven, what you liked to eat, how afraid you were of other people sometimes, how intoxicating a new friendship could be.
I very highly recommend this novel to anyone and everyone. If you have read Gaiman before and not liked him…maybe this won’t work for you, but it will be worth a borrow from your local library in the future just to try again.