Posts tagged ‘H.P. Lovecraft’

June 18, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Neil Gaiman

by Andre

Neil Gaiman THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANEA charming, flame-haired US singer and her daughter were here in the Riverside Bookshop the other day asking about the new Neil Gaiman (the book finally arrived today). We hope they come back, although we suspect the kindly Mr Gaiman will send them a copy seeing as the book’s acknowledgements include a thank you to his famous friend for lending him a house to write it in. And as the singer’s daughter is Gaiman’s goddaughter, she probably deserves the £250 deluxe version.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not really for children though – in fact, it’s Gaiman’s first adult novel in eight years. Seeking solitude after a family funeral, the unnamed narrator wanders the Hempstock farm at the end of the country lane where he grew up. Sitting by the duck pond he remembers that once it was actually an ocean – and then he remembers everything. He’s transported back 40 years to an event that somehow unleashes an otherworldly, almost Lovecraftian evil into the Sussex countryside. The primal horror arrives in the form of a malevolent Mary Poppins, a housekeeper from another dimension who seems to know the boy’s every move. Fortunately, Lettie Hempstock and her family in the old farmhouse possess some ancient powers of their own. Lettie’s 11 but the boy thinks she may have been 11 for a very long time.

Gaiman has surpassed himself with limpid, elegiac prose that conveys the secret world of a seven-year-old. There’s beautiful writing about the pleasures of childhood such as tucking into oozing honeycomb doused in cream from a chipped saucer or losing yourself in books (‘Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?’). It also touches on adult themes of art, loss and (unreliable) memory and, like Lettie’s duck pond, it’s deeper and darker than the slim volume might suggest. We may have forgotten what it’s like to be seven years old in a world of capricious grown-ups but Neil Gaiman has remembered for us in this melancholy and moving adult fairy tale. It may be the best book he’s written.

April 6, 2013

The Teleportation Accident: Ned Beauman

by Andre

Now in paperback – £8.99

Ned Beauman published a precociously confident debut novel, Boxer, Beetle, in 2010. He’s followed that with an audacious comic romp that made the Man Booker Prize longlist. The globe-trotting story begins in Berlin in 1931 where sex-starved set designer Egon Loeser is working on a production about his 17th century stagecraft hero, the mysterious Adriano Lavicini, and his Extraordinary Mechanism for the Almost Instantaneous Transportation of Persons from Place to Place. As a result of Loeser’s self-obsession and his desire for a former pupil called Adele Hitler, he fails to take much notice of the rise of her namesake. Loeser’s wilful political ignorance sets up some bad taste but very funny jokes that tease the reader’s familiarity with 1930s Nazi notoriety.

Beauman flirts outrageously with genre fiction: H.P. Lovecraft is an influence and his story The Shadow Over Innsmouth plays a part in the plot’s science fiction elements. Then there’s Loeser’s pursuit of a serial killer and his inability to read anything other than the brutish crime stories of (fictional) author Stent Mutton – perhaps the Lee Child of his day. The Teleportation Accident is a highly readable, amiably bizarre novel that’s unafraid to play with structure and has a serious point to make about history being a nightmare from which you really need to wake up.