Critics say Gaiman returned to his roots with this book, to personal matters that inspired him to write Coraline and The Graveyard Book, and that's why it's so good. And I agree. When he touches on things that touched him personally, he can work literary magic. What makes this story work is the fact that it stays with the reader. The tone/atmosphere doesn't seem like much when you're reading along, but just wait until you close the book. It's a kind of creepiness that permeates over time and gets creepier every time you think back on it (especially if you know firsthand what it's like to grow up in a haunted house).
Overall, this is a nice, cold, dreamy story to enjoy when you're house-sitting alone at an old rickety country cottage in the middle of nowhere where the nearest neighbor can't be seen from the property. Highly recommended for nights when the power goes out and you have to read by flashlight or, even better, flickering candlelight.
Gaiman's prose is great, as always. It's lovely, spine-tingling, and so smooth. Prose is the best part of Gaiman stories, for me. If I didn't care so much for story and storytelling, I'd read Gaiman back-to-back and just enjoy his syntax.
What keeps this book from a 5-star rating is a recurring problem I have with Gaiman stories—the ending seems unsatisfactory. Something still feels missing in the way which he wraps up events in his stories. I've been told that it's me, that I expect way too much and that his stories are fine. But that's just it. They should be more than fine. Gaiman is a great prose writer. It's only natural that I expect him to crank out satisfying, if not great, endings because I know he can do it. Try harder, Mr. Gaiman.
These book-review pangs seem to be author-specific. Let's hope not though.
— — — — —
Just finished the sample chapter and I can already tell this book will give me book-review pangs*.
Like previous Gaiman books I've read, this one is very well-written to the point of establishing literary beauty. Sentences flow right into one another and string together a haunting ghostly fairy-tale-like narrative that keeps the pages turning. All very fascinating to witness. But does this story have substance? Or is the point of the beautifully structured writing to pan your attention away from a lightweight story? I don't know at this point, but I get the feeling that this story isn't... ocean-deep.
— — — — —
There's a Liza Hempstock in Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Makes me wonder if there will be a significant connection.
Liza is the Hempstock's ancestor.
* Book-review pangs are a series of confused emotions I have about a single book that render me completely undecided.