by Neil Gaiman
First sentence: “It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm.”
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Review copy picked up at Winter Institute and passed on to me by a coworker.
Childhood memories are tricky things. Especially when, with time and distance, the events seem less than real. So, what happens when one is faced with a memory — something do Dark and Sinister — that is unbelievable?
An unnamed man returns to his childhood home in Sussex, England and is drawn to the house at the end of the lane, or more particularly, the pond. That’s when he begins to remember: a suicide, and Letty Hempstock taking him Beyond and the Events that Followed.
I know I’m being vague, but that’s on purpose. Much of the charm of this fairy tale — and it is a fairy tale — is watching the events unfold through the child’s eyes. It’s got all the traditional fairy tale elements: an Evil that needs to be Vanquished; a good witch to help our unwitting hero do just that. I’m not a true fan or expert on Gaiman, but I don’t think he’s written something this straightforwardly charming since Stardust. And, in spite of the Dark and the Foreboding, it is a sweet, simple, charming story.
My coworker mentioned that she felt like something was missing when she finished, but I disagree: it’s just right the way it is. Not complex, not elaborate, but eloquent in its sparseness. And I admire that.