The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Two incredibly immersive stories about two very different childhoods. On Gaiman’s end, you have a fictional, fantastical surrealist story set amongst the clutter and rubble of everyday rural life (one that brought to mind Howl’s Moving Castle and British author Diana Wynne Jones, although the prose style is unmistakeable Gaiman’s) with beautifully rendered characters. In The Glass Castle, you have a non-fictional, auto-biographical memoir and chronicle of an adolescence that took place in a family with two incredibly fanciful and charismatic, but unstable and dysfunctional parents; that documents their life and the family’s nomadic sashays across midwest rural America, as the children become increasingly disenchanted with their parents’ lifestyle. If you ever thought that your family was difficult to accept, try giving this a read.
I was pleasantly surprised with both these books. Both proved incredibly difficult to put down and I read each one within a 24-hour window. Gaiman and Wells’ words flow quickly and smooth, the imagery constant and changing with no dry spells or boring prosaic waxing. Your eyes flow along the page and you’ll find it hard to stop once you’re caught in the current of events. Neither book is particularly thick, so if you’re looking for some really well-written but short summer reads, I would suggest either (or both) of these. Both had me waltzing back through my childhood memories.