This is a Neil Gaiman book and, as such, if you like Neil Gaiman, there's a good chance that you'll enjoy it. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I love it? Not...moreThis is a Neil Gaiman book and, as such, if you like Neil Gaiman, there's a good chance that you'll enjoy it. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I love it? Not really. I tried reading this earlier this summer and nothing came of it. I got about halfway through and really didn't care for our unnamed main character. For some reason, I'm really put off when authors try to insert themselves into their stories. While Gaiman ends by saying that this is not actually his family, it was obviously his childhood and very much himself. And yet, this character was somehow to ambiguous to me. Lettie Hempstock was much more intriguing and I think I would've enjoyed the story more had it come from her perspective.
So I got stuck with the book and didn't try again until I got my hands on the audio copy. Maybe something had changed with how I read books over the years, but I'm much more into audio now. And if it's read by Neil Gaiman, then yes please! And things went much faster and I really did like the story, even if I didn't care about the main character. I guess if you're building a story about friendship and sacrifice and having a life well-lived, then I feel that there needs to be more substance to our hero. And he just... wasn't. I don't think it's helped that I've been in the midst of reading Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series, which I feel the Hempstock family would be very much at home in. Lettie reminded me so much of Tiffany that I wanted to hear more from her, and less from the narrator.
All that being said, the writing itself is beautiful. Ursula Monkton is horrifying and the Hempstocks are the sort of people everyone wishes they had as neighbors. I love that Gaiman can make something like a scrap of canvas into an object of terror... and I will never look at an empty shirt the same way again! And once again, a book makes me crazy for food - Gaiman's descriptions of the Hempstock meals will make you desperate for raw honey, oatmeal, bread... basically you'll want a lot of carbs. I think that's a trend in writing now - make people want to eat what you're writing about! And then terrify them with stories about worms in feet. Yeah!
So, if you like Gaiman's writing, you'll want to read this book. But it may just leave you wanting to read Terry Pratchett at the end. (less)
I remember being really excited after reading reviews of this book. It's a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, set in present day a...moreI remember being really excited after reading reviews of this book. It's a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, set in present day and focusing on a girl named Hazel and her best friend, Jack. Everything about this book says I should like it - constant nods to classic fairy tales and current children's fantasy (Coraline and When You Reach Me are two that pop into mind). It's got a spirited girl as the central character. The writing is strong and can be funny, sweet, sad, and reminiscent of traditional fairy tales. Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to work.
The pacing of this story just dragged. We spend so very long in the real world, hearing about how awful school and life in general is for Hazel. The fantasy elements were introduced too late - I would've liked them interspersed earlier in the book so that we had a clue that that's where the story was going. And the sentences, which were beautiful on their own, got clunky and repetitive. I get that you want to sound like a fairy tale, but there's a reason most fairy tales aren't a full-length novel. After awhile I imagined what this would look like as a graphic novel - it would reduce the long sentences, the flowery descriptions, and be able to sum that all up with pictures. I think it'd make a great graphic novel.
Hazel's relationships with her mom and Jack also bugged me. She's incredibly dependent on Jack, which got to the point of being awkward. I understand that he's her best friend and that he was the one person she felt she could count on, but this girl fell apart when he disappeared. And if I step away and say "This happened over the course of a few days", it doesn't feel nearly as dramatic and soul-crushing as it did hearing directly from Hazel. And then there was her mom, who just seemed so... unappreciated. I wanted to shake Hazel a lot and say "Hey, you've got a nice mother and potential friends and you're really just living in your own world." And that would be fine, because that's a set of issues Hazel has to work out. But really, they don't get resolved by the end of the book.
I wanted to like this, but the further I got into the book, the more I just wanted it to end. And even the ending was unsatisfying.
This book is hilarious. I glanced through it at work and, should anyone have looked at my desk, would've found me hunched over, crying and laughing. I...moreThis book is hilarious. I glanced through it at work and, should anyone have looked at my desk, would've found me hunched over, crying and laughing. It's a fun, quick read and I loved it. (less)