Tuesday, 30 October 2012
From My Bookshelf… ‘Stardust’ (Neil Gaiman)
It was Christmas 1999 when I picked up my copy of ‘Stardust’ and it was quite by accident. I’d somehow found myself with two copies of ‘The Unseen University Challenge’ (Christmases eh…?) and just enough time to nip into town and swap one of them for something else. The only reason I picked up ‘Stardust’ (well, apart from the blurb of course) was that it cost exactly the same as ‘The Unseen University Challenge’. A straight swap then with no need to go digging into my pockets for change that I knew wasn’t there anyway.
How could such a random choice of book become one so close to my heart? As I’ve read more by Gaiman, over the years, the only answer I can come up with is that it’s because he wrote it. There are loads of great writers out there but only one Neil Gaiman.
Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining...
‘Stardust’ is one of those books that I plan to write about but end up just gazing at the monitor trying to get my head round it instead. I caught myself doing that just now so really need to keep plugging away at this post or I will stop again.
The bottom line for me is that everything about ‘Stardust’ is just beautiful; the idyllic setting (on both sides of the Wall), the language, everything. The story is simple enough to get you hooked and with enough twists and turns to keep you reading (just as you start to think this is all a little too simple… it isn’t at all) It’s done so well that I could read this book over and over again (and do) and still be just as engrossed as I was that first time almost thirteen years ago.
I think what I love most is the way that Gaiman tells a fairy tale that is traditional and very modern all at the same time; just by using the odd word here and there. Like this for example,
‘Or almost gone. There was a dim glow pulsing from the middle of the hazel thicket, as if a tiny cloud of stars were glimmering there.
And there was a voice, a high clear, female voice, which said , ‘Ow’ and then, very quietly, it said, ‘Fuck,’ and then it said ‘Ow’, once more’
It’s a lovely little touch that lets the reader know that the story is well aware of where the reader is (it doesn’t all have to be the other way round).
So, ‘Stardust’. A book that led me on to read a whole load more Neil Gaiman (which indirectly led me back to Michael Moorcock) as well as a book that became a very watchable film. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for as far as ‘Stardust’ is concerned. If you haven’t read it already then you really need to do something about that.