Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Neil Gaiman doesn’t just evoke childhood when you read his work. Whether you are out on the back porch, tilting your Kindle away from the sun, or in a recliner in the living room reading the hardback, you feel that you really should be reading it with a flashlight under the covers of your bed, breathlessly and avidly going from one chapter to the next.
The story is about a boy in rural Sussex, England, sometime after World War II. He’s an ordinary British boy with an ordinary British bratty sister and ordinary British remote parents. His neighbors at Hempstead Farm aren’t quite so ordinary; the 11 year old girl remembers Charles II; her mum remembers when Earth acquired an oxygen atmosphere; gramm remembers watching the Big Bang.
With friends like that, it’s hard to imagine a boy getting in trouble, but our protagonist manages. His hand slips out of the girl’s at the wrong moment, and he winds up bringing an entity back with him who wants to make everyone happy by giving them money. Contrary to what you might think, this is not a good thing.
Gaiman makes the utterly incredible completely accessible as only he can, and readers may find the notion there is an ocean at the end of a country lane that disguises itself as a duck pond much easier to grasp than that of obsolete British coinage. For the record: a shilling is about the size of a twenty-five cent piece; a sixpence is the diameter of a nickel, but thinner. Both were made of silver. Knowing this is helpful, but not necessary. It is suggested that the reader not try to eat either type of coin.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have my flashlight and I’m about to dive under the covers. I want to read it again.
Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and spent his formative years living in various parts of Canada, the UK, South Africa and Australia before finally moving to the United States, where he has lived for over 40 years. Aside from writing, his interests include hiking, raising dogs and cats, and making computers jump through hoops. His wife of 25 years edits his copy, and bravely attempts to make him sound coherent. Reach him through The Electric Review.