Returning home to attend a funeral, our unnamed protagonist seeks out a farmhouse that played an important part in his early years. Upon finding it, he takes a stroll through the property and rests next to a pond. Memories come flooding back as he recounts a tale involving suicide, spirits and terror from his youth.
Originally intended to be a short story or novella, Gaiman slowly realized that the subject matter deserved the full novel treatment. However, expectations were high considering this was his first adult novel since 2005’s Anansi Boys. Did he expect the level of critical praise that would meet him at the end of 2013? Maybe – I mean, he IS Neil Gaiman after all, I’m sure he’s aware of his legions of supporters. In the end, I’m sure it didn't matter. Although he was writing this specifically for his wife, Amanda, I’m sure he’ll take the awards.
Gaiman has gone on record stating that the novel certainly has its autobiographical elements. I mean, just by reading the way Gaiman gushes about the protagonist’s love for the written word, you know there’s real passion there. He steals away any time he can to read, whether he’s climbing into a tree, hiding in the backyard or just reading by the light of the hallway at night. If anything, it makes me really regret not being a bookish kid.
Last month, The British National Book Awards declared this the top novel of 2013 as did a whole slew of others. Personally, I’m not sure I would go that high myself but it was certainly memorable nonetheless.