This was my first Neil Gaiman book. I didn’t know if I would even write my thoughts about it, because I feel sure that everyone and their dog have already read it. But, I thought maybe I would, since my thoughts might be a bit different from what seems to be the popular opinion. Most people seemed to have loved this book, but, for me, it was only good, not great. I guess the world of the supernatural is not really my thing. It is creative and imaginative, but I felt like I was reading a children’s story containing adult themes. There are, however, several things I did like about it.
1. Maurice Sendak’s quote at the beginning of the book.
I remember my own childhood vividly… I knew terrible things. But I knew I musn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them. – Maurice Sendak
Are children capable of knowing more than adults? Can they handle fear better than us?
“I’m going to tell you something important. 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.”
2. The little boy. The little boy is what kept me reading the book.
3. The Hempstock women. I loved the idea that they have been around since the beginning of time, and were everything the little boy needed; comfort, security, good cooks, and miraculous fixers of the things gone wrong.
“Men!” hooted Old Mrs. Hempstock. “I dunno what blessed good a man would be! Nothing a man could do around this farm that I can’t do twice as fast and five times as well.”
4. The idea that giving people what they want is not always best.
Everything here is so weak, little girl. Everything breaks so easily. They want such simple things. I will take all I want from this world, like a child stuffing its fat little face with blackberries from a bush.
5. The idea that our world is but a grain in the desert.
They could have hurt you, child, and it would have meant nothing. They could have hurt this world without anything being said-it’s only a world, after all, and they’re just sand grains in the desert, worlds.
6. I liked the way the boy/man could both remember and forget the events that happened to him in this story. A smooth transition that worked well, allowing us to be told the story, but having it go no further than that.
Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.
7. This story had a good, satisfying ending. And one more good quote:
I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I found joy in the things that made me happy.
I think this is the secret. Being able to find joy in small things, even while the world is falling down around you. We will never be able to escape hardship, but there will always be something to enjoy; a book, a friend, a parent, a sibling, something good to eat, a tree, a flower, singing, telling stories. Children are good at this. What is the secret to holding on to this ability? What do you think of this book, or other Neil Gaiman books?