Publisher: William Morrow
Published: June 2013
Adults should not weep, I knew. They did not have mothers who would comfort them.
To be quite honest I don’t know what it is about Gaiman’ child protagonists that they somehow simply amaze me, usually child protagonists don’t work for me. The authors either try too hard and the kid ends up sounding way too dumb or too worldly-wise, both of which can be annoying if not handled correctly but if written and conveyed convincingly, which they do work wonders.
Gaiman to my utter delight just gets them right, I adored Coraline and I am in love with The Ocean at the end of the lane now. The kids are wise but not in a way that’s in your face – its like hearing a child solve a problem for you in his/her raw simplicity which you couldn’t even get a grip on because you saw it on with your adult glasses and to a child it was simply a question that had an answer to it all along. Sometimes kids can get what adults don’t – a child’ mind and heart is more open than that of an adult, it just let’s you in if it likes you, it doesn’t question everything and it isn’t a sceptic or a cheater.
The last time I had read Gaiman’ work it was American Gods – I don’t know why but I just dint connect with the book and its characters like I did with this one or Coraline. May be because the way Gaiman writes, the way his characters and their thought processes are conveyed when the voice happens to be that of a child simply delights me.
I am aware that the protagonist of this book isn’t a little boy, not anymore but the story is about the time when forty years back he was one. Just a little seven-year old boy in Sussex, who encounters three women on a farm who live by the end of the lane in a farm called the Hempstocks. And a creature that somehow finds its way to his house and becomes what is one of the worst nightmares a child could have. A stranger who makes him feel a prisoner, a captive within the confines of his own home. Someone who can destroy everything that he holds near and dear and ruin him irrevocably. It is then that the three women become his saviors, saving him and his family from the clutches of the vile creature.
I loved the characters – the naive boy whose innocence broke my heart when he suffered, so much so that I wanted to protect him. At one point he asks his father a question which is so simple and yet so poignant, so utterly moving in its rawness when he says
Does it make you feel big to make a little boy cry?
That is such a simple sounding question but when said by a teary child who is frightened of his own father it just adds so many levels to it, the innocence with which it is posed simply gets to you.
The three women who were downright brilliantly written in a way that every time I came across them all I was reminded of was Greek mythology’ three fates – with each of them representing a facet of time – the all-knowing past as the wise grandmother who has seen it all, who knows everything and whose experience can benefit you when in a crisis, the ever busy present as the mother who is always on her toes running around a house doing chores taking care of the things that need attention and the future who is the daughter of the house, hopeful, strong and unyielding with faith yet not experienced enough always to know if something has been missed or went wrong yet determined to make things right if they need be and keep at them persistently until its right.
Gaiman’ prose is so beautiful I could almost weep with joy. It was no wonder than that I devoured the book in a single day and would revisit it soon when I really want another shot at this beautiful work. The book which marks the return of Gaiman into adult fiction after a hiatus is truly a perfect blend of horror, fantasy and gorgeous storytelling. A must read for absolutely everyone.