When I look at the list of books I’ve read over the years, I realise that I am rather fond of fantasy. Not so much the epic tales of knights and dragons, but the sort which has one foot in reality. Goodreads provides a definition of this sort of fantasy:
“Magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend to create a realistic atmosphere that accesses a deeper understanding of reality. The story explains these magical elements as normal occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the “real” and the “fantastic” in the same stream of thought.”
Recently, I read the latest by Neil Gaiman, an absolute master of fantasy. “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” delighted me. As soon as the un-named narrator found himself sitting by a pond, near a ramshackle farmhouse, and his memory transported him back to his seven year old self, I was hooked. He recalled his friendship with eleven year old Lettie Hempstock, her mother and grandmother. He remembered that Lettie called the pond an ocean and that there was more to the Hempstocks than met the eye.
The story of this seven year old unfolds in a magical and often frightening way. The suicide of a lodger from the boy’s home leads to a series of events, unleashing the power of an ancient, evil force.
As the blurb on Goodreads says about “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”:
“It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark”.
To fully enjoy this book, one has to suspend belief to a certain extent. Over the years, I have read a number of books which fall within this genre, most of them having been written for Children and Young Adults. They have all thrilled and delighted me with their imaginative content and their mixture of reality and magic.
Some of my favourites were written by Alan Garner – “The Weirdstone of Brisingamen”, “Elidor” and “The Owl Service” especially. Lucy M. Boston wrote “The Children of Green Knowe” series and I was particularly reminded of “An Enemy at Green Knowe” when I read Neil Gaiman’s book. Another favourite is “The Dark is Rising” by Susan Cooper.
For more up to date and adult books in this genre, I would thoroughly recommend
the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. So far, he has written four books about the young Police Officer, Peter Grant, and his adventures working for a department of the Metropolitan Police which deals with magical situations.
My reading has broadened over the years – my latest delight is in Short Stories – but for pure light relief, a well-written, magically realistic tale fits the bill for me!
Thank you Neil Gaiman, Ben Aaronovitch, Alan Garner, Lucy M. Boston and Susan Cooper to name but a few, for the years of pleasure that your books have brought me.