I’m going to start of by saying that everything Neil Gaiman writes is madness and I love it. But with this book… I was so confused. But I loved it. But I wasn’t sure what was happening? I was scared at some points. This isn’t exactly a horror, but I wouldn’t say that it isn’t one either. It’s about magic and monsters and childhood and nightmares and it hurt my heart in an oddly nostalgic way. The first and final chapters show the narrator as an adult, and everything in between is him looking back on an event from his childhood, so it’s hard to decide whether this is a book for children or adults. I saw someone in another review recommend it for people who’ve started forgetting what it was like to be a kid, and I think that’s perfect.
I went into this book completely blind. A friend picked it out for me as a Christmas gift based off the blurb so I don’t think she read it either, just chose it based off a description and what she knows I like. I’ve read two Neil Gaiman books in the past – The Graveyard Book when I was much younger, and Coraline last year – and I love how his style is whimsical and witty and extremely visual. Reading his books feels like watching a movie. The writing is so incredibly addictive and beautiful. His descriptions of food make your stomach grumble, and his descriptions of a child pulling an evil worm out from an endless hole in his foot makes you feel ill. Balance.
The main emotion this book made me feel was confusion, and this is the one book I’ve read where this didn’t rob me of any enjoyment. I enjoyed the confusion: I felt as if I was the adult version of the narrator looking back at these blurry magical childhood memories. There’s such a dreamlike quality to the story and there’s moments where it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. The creepy yet beautiful setting in the English countryside was something very familiar to me as I’ve lived there my entire life. A little lonely, a bit isolated, and like a world entirely of its own. The characters are also wonderful: a sympathetic narrator, an eleven year old girl who might have been eleven for a very long time, a quirky mother and grandmother.
The only real negative point I have about this book is that all of the issues could’ve been sorted in a quarter of the number of pages if there was a different character dealing with them. But I guess that’s why the children were left to deal with the problems? That’s probably the most confusing part of the book.