Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but aren’t.
First of, I have a little confession to make. I bought this book on a whim. I came across Neil Gaiman’s shelf at a book store down town and had to pause. I’d known about him from Coraline, a freakishly spooky animated film about buttoned eye dolls, which was based on his novel. I was instantly obsessed (ask my bestie and flatmate at the time, she would concur). But that’s another post in and of itself lol. Anyhow, that’s how I knew what I was in for. The reason I picked this title up was because of the cover design. Like I’ve mentioned so many times before, I do judge a book by its cover. And the title was also inviting, and it seems to receive raving reviews and high praise all round. So why the heck not?
I finally finished reading, devouring, and thoroughly loving this book a few nights ago. It was considerably easy read for a non-native English speaker like myself. Had I have the time, I feel like I could finish this book in less than two days. (In reality, it ended up taking me nearly 2 weeks lol) The story is gripping and engaging in every way. There are elements of eeriness and mystery to Neil Gaiman’s storytelling. The characters in this novel are so whimsically fictitious yet there is a certain kind of relatable realness to them. He also has a way of turning your stomach with the simplest of sentences.
That’s the problem with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together…
The story follows a middle-aged man down his memory lane (no pun intended lol) when he revisits his childhood hometown for a funeral. Old memories started to resurface as he sits by the pond (a.k.a the ocean) behind a farmhouse in the neighbouring farm at the end of the lane where he met a peculiar girl called Lettie.
As the story unfolds, we learn of his sad, scary, and incomprehensible series of events in his strange past. In between those dark moments, there was also friendship, love, and compassion to lighten the mood. This novel pokes at our own inner child and wakes it from the dream-like state of adulthood temporarily. The world was seen through his seven-year-old eye, allowing us to experience his emotion and thought process first handedly. And might I warn you, it is not for a faint heart… because it will make you feel too deeply for the boy for what he went through.
Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody… Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.
Nothing prepares you for darkness that will loom around the whole time you’re reading it. There were moments in the book that proves too terrifying and weird even for an adult to witness. You can’t help but imagine yourself in the shoes of the character which makes it all the more stirring and traumatic. Despite my love for detective fiction and real crime stories, I don’t normally indulge in dark and haunting fiction such as this. It leaves me feeling unease but fascinated, curious but scared. My heart needs a break. It will probably be a while until I pick up another one like it.