Eye of the needle:
The Grey Witches' one eye.
It's prick is their tooth.
This was Beatrice's pick for Eleven-Books Club & reactions to it ranged from loving it to thinking it was another typical Gaiman. Me? I think this is the best of Neil Gaiman's non-comic book work. Coraline was the previous champ, but I think this deposes it & it is a damn sight better than his other adult novels, which I find generally acceptable but unremarkable, except for the fact that he has a problem ending books. See also "oh crap am I like 500 pages into this thing? I better craft a five page ad hoc conclusion. Um!" in American Gods by way of example. Ocean at the End of the Lane actually starts ramping up to a conclusion about three-fourths of the way in, it actually has a third act & an epilogue, so just on structure alone it wins. Then there are a lot of the usual Gaiman flourishes; he has an eye for detail, for example, so the inclusion of gas lamps in children's rooms & getting zapped by an electric fence really ring true. Similarly, Gaiman has a way of failing to describe things that I find really, really effective, by which I mean the impressionistic style he uses to describe Skarthach of the Keep who we call Ursula Monkton, or the way he fails to describe the faces-maws-mouths-horrors of the Hunger Birds. I think Ocean... is his Gene Wolfe frame-story-- what is up with this adult guy who is a clear author stand-in-- with a Madeleine L'Engle center. Maybe it is just the Three-in-One, though.
Gaiman goes for deep archetypes, & the Fates are it; after reading The Kindly Ones you can't be too surprised. The Norns, the Graeae, the Furies, the Morrigan, call them what you will, Mother, Maiden & Crone. Then the Hunger Birds, the varmints, the Cleaners which I think are pretty clearly just angels. I also really liked the rumors of the Hempstock's origins; immigrant story, no Atlantis, no Krypton, no Faerie! Not to mention that it is a "wicked stepmother" tale, only you know, in the modern context of adultery. & it comes complete with a Narnian Stone Table bit, "you know the Deep Magic but I know a deeper law" stuff from Granny. Our big sticking point was: do you hold the father & sister accountable for their actions? fatbutts certainly did, but I think-- as we see the whole town in the spirit's grip-- that they are utterly & thoroughly enchanted. It was a fun session but I think we mostly just talked about bits we like more than had things to disagree about. Oh & poor bunny Jenny broke her toe! Stubbing it on furniture. Pretty good attendance; me, Jennifer, Liz, Lilly, Beatrice, May, with Terra, littlewashu & carmyarmyofme on Hangouts, which I think is too many people, frankly, but then, I also couldn't get Hangouts to export audio to the television properly, again, so I was already super angry at Hangouts. A bunch of wine, a bunch of Chinese food, & a bunch of chit-chat. We ended up having a fairly late night just shooting the breeze. (Photos courtesy of Jennifer.)