Friday, 6 November 2015

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline is a dark children's story that's not for the faint of heart. It centres around a remarkable little girl, Coraline Jones who moves with her parents to a new home which holds a secret door.

Coraline has gone on to win the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young readers, the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella  as well as the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella.

This is the third book I have read by Neil Gaiman and as usual I have not been left disappointed. Neil Gaiman possesses an extraordinary ability to take one of his unique characters and just leave them all alone in a most ridiculous situation facing the most dire circumstances. I have to admit when I read his books I always think this character will never find their way out of this hell hole. The plot seems too preposterous, Gaiman will never get out of this alive. But each time he creates these fantastic stories. His stories are so strange believable. They seem to write themselves. I am incredibly jealous of his writing.

Whilst reading this I had to check it was actually a story aimed at children. It is so dark and disturbing but a delight to read. If  I was a child reading this I would be sh*t scared, and I agree completely with Gaiman who has said that it is good for children to scared, "as long as the fear is on the page."

It has an incredible gothic feel and utterly absorbing. I kept praying that Coraline would just wake up and see that it was all just a dream. I really felt like I was stepping into another world, and that's what I love about reading.

But Coraline is so much more than a scary tale, as Gaiman himself has said, "it is not a story about fear, but one about bravery."

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Dark Land: A book of Cornish Ghost Stories by Mary Williams

To me Cornwall is a wild and magical landscape still deeply in touch with its celtic roots and influences. A little corner of the British Isles where pixies and other fey creatures still roam. There's magic in the air. If you've never been to Cornwall you're missing out on a wonderful experience.

This little book is one of those books that just mysteriously appear in your life. The short ghostly tales within capture beautifully the raw undiluted Cornish landscape and its  lingering aura of forgotten arcane history. This is not the Cornwall that the tourists know and love but of the older primal Cornwall.

The author, Mary Williams is just as mysterious as her wonderful tales. She has written dozens of books yet there is very little information about her. She was born in 1928 and lived in Cornwall from 1947 until she died at the grand age of 97. She has published an impressive 17 volumes of ghost stories as well as romantic novels, all set in Cornwall. It's a shame she is not as well known as other great Cornish  writers such as Daphne Du Maurier who wrote Jamaica Inn and Rebecca, and Winston Graham, author of the Poldark novels.

I really loved these stories featured in The Dark Land, so much so that when I had finished I simply started reading them again. This volume was published in 1975 and although some stories seem dated they are utterly charming yet macabre. Stand out favourites for me include Far End, Hickory-Dickory Dock and Guppa.

Inside this book you'll find tales of lonely ghosts, macabre forces, shapeshifters, strange places that transcend time and avenging revenants.



"At other times she explored the moors, with a sense of mounting primitive excitement as she neared the cromlech, a wild atavistic place of gaunt rocks, secret boggy pools and clutching wind-swept undergrowth. In great fingers shapes, the stones stood against the sky, defying it seemed, humanity's encroachment."

Emily Bacon is a grieving widow who is determined not to let her grief swallow her whole, purchases an old run down cottage in a "very of the way place." deep within Cornwall. She has grand designs to restore the cottage and the garden to glory. She will begin again, but the locals aren't so keen. They do not want her there and try everything they can to make her leave, this makes her even more determined to stay and find out why she is so unwelcome.