My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Childhood is a wonderful, imaginative, all-too-brief time of life.
"Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep through rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive."
Sometimes, a child can be thrust into very adult worlds. These worlds are often foreign and scary, and this novel explores exactly that: the frightening nature of certain experiences a child has.
When our unnamed male protagonist has to give up his room to a strange opal miner, the miner steals their car and commits suicide. The boy finds a coin in the car and pockets it. And it is there that the trouble begins....
The way this book was going confused me, at first. But we see, as the boy gets familiar with his nearby neighbors and becomes close to their young girl, Lettie, what exactly is at stake. Lettie, as a character was wonderful, and so sweet to the young boy. What I ended up loving was that we don't get the answers to everything about Lettie and her family.
(view spoiler)[Why does Lettie act much older than she says she is?
What's up with the family? Are they even really human? Are they from that world where Lettie took our main character, where all the trouble started?
How did Lettie and her family know about Ursula Monkton?
And, finally, when Lettie became part of the ocean at the end, was she still able to watch over the main protagonist? (hide spoiler)]
Usually, the leaving questions open in a story tactic annoys me. It did, at first, with this book, too. But, as I started to realize how the world of the story worked, I found that I liked Gaiman keeping the questions unanswered.
"How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow. There can never be a time when you forget them, when you are not, in your heart, questing after something you cannot have, something you cannot even properly imagine, the lack of which will spoil your sleep and your day and your life, until you close your eyes for the final time, until your loved ones give you poison and sell you to anatomy, and even then you will die with a hole inside you, and you will wail and curse at a life ill-lived."
Just little bits of the story held so much more meaning than I expected. I like how Gaiman pondered on these questions with the story in an attempt to answer them, even if the answer couldn't always be found right away, or not at all.
“Small children believe themselves to be gods, or some of them do, and they can only be satisfied when the rest of the world goes along with their way of seeing things.”
I like how, as a child, the main protagonist learns that you cannot necessarily know everything. Not everything in this world can be known. But what knowledge there can be, can be cherished like a new book or toy, for knowledge is a powerful strength, even if sometimes it may seem like a weakness.
All in all, a fantastic story. Highly recommended!
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