This week I read Neil Gaiman’s Down to a Sunless Sea for our #FearieTalesBlog. It is a dark, disconcerting tale that sucks the reader into the story in just a few short pages.
The use of the second person narrative – something I personally don’t see often – places the reader in the tale and gives the writing a dramatic edge, whilst the introduction of the reader as a character after the scene has been set catches you off guard – creating the unease that infuses the words so beautifully.
As a protagonist in this story you find yourself in a drab environment while the rain beats down on the tarpaulin covering your head, being told a tale you are not sure you should believe, or be listening too. As a spectator, you find yourself reading the story Gaiman has to tell in much the same way as you would listen to it: not wanting to do so, but with nowhere else to go.
It’s uncomfortable. And it is brilliant.
Gaiman has chosen the voice of an old crone as the second protagonist, and you should listen carefully to her tale, because her story is macabre enough and her life tragic enough to have you hooked, both as you read and as ‘you’ listen.