Short but intriguing and beautiful.
This is the story of a man, who after returning to his boyhood home town for a funeral, starts to remember a summer from when he was seven and met a girl called Lettie and her family. Things immediately start to become quite strange, especially once a new nanny comes to live with them, Ursula Monkton.
As mentioned this is a very short book, I think I read it in one evening. It is very well written in that I think the author really manages to capture that dream like state of an adult remembering a childhood, especially one which was so strange. We never get a name for the narrator though it’s not really an issue, I didn’t notice until I was half way through. It starts off relatively slow but there are jarring moments of something being wrong almost from the start which increase as the story progresses. Since our main POV is a child we notice more than they do.
The characters are all straight out of a dark fairytale. Lettie first appears as a somewhat mature child but with those odd notes that don’t ring right. It’s pretty much the same with her grandmother. Ursula Monkton is proper terrifying, I found myself a bit disconcerted once she really got going. The scariest part of all of course is what happens to the father and the betrayal of an adult to a child. A certain scene in particular will stick with me for quite a while.
I’ve been a bit hit and miss with Gaiman. I loved American Gods and Good Omens with Terry Pratchett but didn’t really like Stardust or Norse Mythology, so this was good in that it is firmly on the side of his books that I’ve enjoyed. It is even a bit scary in parts and I love that most of it is still a mystery by the end. The main flaw I found was that the kid seemed far too old for a seven year old but I do wonder if that’s deliberate in that it is supposed to be a (flawed) memory rather than a straight-forward telling.
If you’re looking for a short, standalone read then you couldn’t go too far wrong here.