I began reading this book with my guard up, I must admit. Though I have read and loved Stardust and Neverwhere, and suspected this Neil Gaiman charac...more I began reading this book with my guard up, I must admit. Though I have read and loved Stardust and Neverwhere, and suspected this Neil Gaiman character may be something altogether special and unique, I never approach a book that sounds wonderful without the knowledge that I may end up disappointed. Besides, the book is less than a half-inch thick, so it is bound to be too brief to be satisfying, right? Wrong.
This deceptively slim book holds complex truths that will resonate with readers more deeply than its size would imply is possible. Real-life memories and long-known imaginings are here woven into a seamless tapestry, breathing a stunning sense of life into what is, on the surface, a fairytale adventure. The unnamed protagonist returns late in life to a changed childhood home and remembers, at last, things both tender and terrifying. The emotional realism is too genuine to dismiss as fantasy, but the fantasy is too mythic and profound to ignore, possibly changing my view of our cosmos (or at least its possibilities) forever. Reminiscent of both A Wrinkle in Time and Ray Bradbury’s Green Town stories, and yet something entirely new and beautiful and sometimes horrifying, this book takes us on an epic journey from the ordinary adult world, back to the wonder and danger of that Faerie-land that is childhood.
Mr. Gaiman handles prose like a fish in his native elemental ocean – it slips and flows and glides through the scenes, unnoticed and yet perfect in every way. He has a way of taking massive ideas and making them clear and simple, yet refreshingly powerful and empowering. All this happens in this not-so-brief tale, one I will not soon forget, especially since this book will be a permanent fixture in my library and subjected to frequent re-reads. I heartily recommend it to anyone who has the slightest taste for fantasy, fairytales, magical realism, supernatural, myth, or just plain amazing fiction.(less)
This is a wonderful though fairly short children's book, and I treasured it long before I had my son and shared it with him. Parts of it remind me of...moreThis is a wonderful though fairly short children's book, and I treasured it long before I had my son and shared it with him. Parts of it remind me of Baron Von Munchausen, E. Nesbit and other fairytale/tall tale kind of stories. It is written with Tolkien's usual wit and lyricism, has a simple message and is just a fun romp. When I was reading it to my then-five-year-old son, my husband started listening in every night, too. Great family reading!(less)
If you enjoy good old-fashioned children's books like The Secret Garden, you will probably enjoy this one. I definitely did. The story is simple, mayb...moreIf you enjoy good old-fashioned children's books like The Secret Garden, you will probably enjoy this one. I definitely did. The story is simple, maybe even predictable, but the frank, straightforward prose is refreshing, approaching difficult concepts such as illness and death in a way that aren't overwhelming for young children (The protagonist is ten). There is a little bit of a religious element, since the boy lives in a monastery for a while, but it is mostly just a period setting, not preachy. I loved watching Robin progress from an angry child to a responsible and courageous young man. The message of perseverance and courage was plainly put and beautifully illustrated in the action of the story. I would recommend this book for children especially. There is some "old-fashioned" dialogue, but I don't think it's too difficult. Wonderful award winner.(less)
Due to some family crises, I took a break about halfway through this book, and ended up reading a bunch of reviews, including negative ones. Frankly,...moreDue to some family crises, I took a break about halfway through this book, and ended up reading a bunch of reviews, including negative ones. Frankly, I see where they are coming from, but I feel the book is great just the way it is. The romance isn't central, and the real "star" of the book is the circus itself. If anything, the climax of the book is a sort of re-balancing, rather than fixing everything. But it felt right. I for one loved the descriptions and would have enjoyed even more. Some of the things touched on are following your own dreams rather than a parent's, opening your heart to magic/love, and the repercussions of involving others in a selfish competition. While definitely fantasy, and at times reminiscent of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, this story has more of a wide view of all the characters involved, and focuses more on emotions, particularly those invoked and amplified by the circus.
Some readers felt the ending was predictable. I didn't think so at all. Bailey's involvement seemed obvious, but the rest was a surprise to me. And yes, there were questions at the end and some bittersweetness. It was fitting for such a enigmatic and sometimes brutal story.