“Why do you think she’s scared of anything? She’s a grown-up, isn’t she? Grown-ups and monsters aren’t scared of things.”
“Oh, monsters are scared,” said Lettie. “That’s why they’re monsters.”
This is Gaiman’s latest book, unless I’ve missed something, and it’s a real knock-out. The unnamed narrator has returned to the small hamlet where he grew up for a funeral of some kind and he takes a detour to visit the old street where he lived as a child. And then the memories come back. Strange memories of his childhood and the weird occurrences surrounding a car theft, the three women at the end of the lane and a trip to the woods with serious consequences. I really, really loved this book. It’s just a really deep book about memory and childhood and all that kind of thing, while also being a fast-paced, and at under two-hundred pages, very short book. I read it in a couple of days; a less busy person could conceivably knock it out in one sitting and, trust me, I wanted to do so. Gaiman’s writing is sharp and crisp, his characterizations great and his world-building typically amazing. Just when you think the book has shown you everything it has to offer, you turn a corner and there’s a whole new vista of weirdness in front of you. The book captures the awe of a child encountering unnatural forces perfectly and there are some genuinely terrifying sequences. Ursula Monkton is one of the most compelling villains I’ve encountered in a long, long time and there’s an incredibly disturbing sequence that doesn’t really involve her at all. If you’ve read the book, you’ll cringe when I say “bathtub.” I mean, Jesus. I found this book to be really enjoyable, really thought-provoking and incredibly imaginative. It’s high literature and great genre at the same time. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – melancholy novel about childhood and memories is also a rivetingly suspenseful, often terrifying work of fantasy; beautifully written, well characterized: a must read. 4 stars.