2012 found me discovering, or rediscovering, the British author Neil Gaiman, and I am so glad that I did. A few years ago I read his novel American Gods, and I was really not all that impressed. However, after my most recent experiences with Gaiman's fiction I must confess that I am prepared to give American Gods another chance at some point. Anyway, over the past couple of months I've read Stardust, Neverwhere, and Coraline. Here are my brief thoughts about each of them--
You'll note that I am not sharing one jot about the plot of this tale, as I don't want to influence you other than to simply say that it is my humble wish that each and every person read Stardust at some point during their lives, and maybe bring a little extra Magic and Love into their hearts and souls. Upon finishing this lovely little story you simply can't help but look at the world around you just a little differently, and that'll be a mighty fine thing, I think.
The story's protagonist, Richard Mayhew, falls through the cracks and emerges into this other London, and is immediately thrust into an epic adventure with a Dickensian cast of characters. The adventure rapidly turns into a titanic struggle between the forces of Good and Evil (and the Evil forces are really quite horrifyingly awful). Like most, if not all, of Gaiman's protagonists, Richard Mayhew has to dig deep within himself to find his courage, but once he commits himself he is a stolid and reliable friend to the young woman, Door, who is in desperate need of his help. Again, I dare not say more about the plot, other than I loved this book immensely and I simply loved the ending--it was perfect! Neverwhere is a marvelous, marvelous novel.
As a bit of a sidenote, something else that I've noticed is that Gaiman has a thing for doors, doesn't he? Hmmm...Think about it. In his novel Stardust there is a gate to Faerie; and in Neverwhere the young woman, Door, is able to find, open, and pass through doors that are portals to other planes and places; and then our own Coraline and the 'fourteenth' door in her parents' flat that opens upon the alternate world of her "other Mother" and "other Father" and some other creepy doings.
Being the father of two beautiful daughters, this little tale cast me back to the days of watching their inquisitive natures and insatiable curiosities as they began exploring the world around them and the people they encountered. So, while there are some superb moral lessons for children in this book, there are an equal number of lessons for the parents and grandparents of children too. Foremost is to pay attention to and unconditionally love our children, and in so doing that is likely enough to prevent them from seeking out or, worse yet, actually finding a set of "other parents" behind the "fourteenth door".
Coraline is a wonderful little book to pass around to all of the adults and children in your life.
Neil Gaiman is certainly one of my great literary discoveries of 2012, and I'm so glad to have most of his fiction sitting on my bookshelf now. Both Stardust and Coraline made my "Year In Review" list too. Finally, I have Gaiman's The Graveyard Book sitting in the queue on my TBR shelf. I can't wait!