on 15 December 2014
"I will not forgive myself for the year that I hated my daughter..."
This is my favourite book of the year. Yep, there. I said it. I read it in one sitting, and I could have read it again and again and again. It left me reeling. I finished the book, closed it, and the first thing out of my mouth was, "Oh my God..."
I was breathless, and overjoyed that I found a book that could still make me react this way! What an amazing story. It made me feel like a child again. We start out with that great opening, about a father who can pretty much forgive himself for anything, except for that year he hated his daughter. At that point we don't understand why or how or what or anything. We are simply taken onto this journey as he begins his search for a cave in the black mountains. This father who is barely bigger than a child in size, is actually strong and clever.
He is able to convince a man to guide him to that cave, knowing that the man has been there many years before. This man agrees, but refuses to go into the cave with him. The cave is said to have so much gold, but when you come out of it, you are forever changed, as if a part of your soul is dead.
Throughout this journey we learn many things about both man and midget, and the ending is so dark and twisted, I was on the edge of my seat. Absolutely wonderful.
Bravo Neil Gaiman. I am SO impressed.
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, is neither pure prose nor a graphic novel. It is a story with pictures, unlike any other that I have come across before. Both the language and artwork are dark, rich and deep; evocative of the Scottish islands in which the tale is set. It moved me in a way that unsettled yet delighted; brutal, mystical, a parable for our time.
I do not read e-books. I have no problem if others choose to consume their literature in this way but, for me, there is something special in holding a physical book. The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain is a thing of tactile beauty, a book that deserves time and appreciation for so much more than the tale which it tells. Some pages have few words, the artwork saying all that is needed to draw the reader in. Other pages paint the pictures with prose that is sparse yet efficacious. The occasional use of comic strips is effective proof that this medium should not be casually dismissed.
The book is a story of two men on a journey, strangers travelling to a cave filled with cursed treasure to which only one knows the way. It is a tale of greed and survival, but conveys so much more. At its heart is loss, a tragedy, a desire for revenge, and the ultimate shallowness of achieving that for which we yearn.
It will not take long to read, but expect what unfolds to remain as the contents are pondered over time. It is a book that should be read, reread, flicked through and discussed with others. It has touched me in a way that few books do, an assault on the mind and the senses, powerful, harsh, but above all alluring.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.
on 20 July 2014
This is a lovely book, the pages, binding, cover and art all remind us why there is still a place for hardcover books, and that there are things which e-books cant replicate - although they of course have other different possibilities.
This is a tale in true Gaiman style, somewhat dark, haunting, thought provoking... And above all interesting. I love the combination of writing and pictorial story telling - the comic or graphic novel meets the conventional novel - it works very well.
It is a story of two travellers on a quest, but things are not what they seem, and the reader will visit the dark places and remember them long after the book is finished.
"I am old now, or at least, I am no longer young, and everything I see reminds me of something else I've seen, such that I see nothing for the first time. A bonny girl, her head fiery-red, reminds me only of another hundred such lasses, and their mothers, and what they were as they grew, and what they looked like when they died. It is the curse of age, that all things are reflections of other things"
Fabulous weaver of weird and wonderful stories for adults and children Neil Gaiman wrote this short story/novella The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, which was published in a collection of creepy dark stories: Stories: All New Tales, by Headline, back in 2010.
Then this story by Gaiman developed another life, when he was invited to read his story aloud, and with projected artwork by Eddie Campbell, with a musical underscore by FourPlay String Quartet at the graphic Festival at Sydney Opera House.
Now Headline have reduced the experience back down to the individual reading experience - a book, a story on the page, that artwork, condensed into a wonderful weaving of seductive and dark words, sensuous and sometimes scary images, and the tactile experience of silky, glossy pages, hardcover, slightly textured titling. The book as craft, art, and beautiful object as well as wondrous words and a story like some well-honed myth, handed down through generations.
This is a journey through the Highlands, a journey made by two stern men, both with hidden secrets. The un-named narrator is a small fierce man. His companion, Calum MacInnes, is a tall, gaunt one. And there appears to be distrust of the other, from both sides, as they set out to find hidden gold which may be cursed
Artist Eddie Campbell's artworks are gorgeous, and varied in style, ranging from graphic, solid broad-brush stroked figures which are almost cartoon in simplicity, to some lovely part-shaded, part outline, suggestions of shapes, which appear to flicker out from misty, pastel backgrounds. I particularly like the fact that the textured background Campbell must originally have used is visible, a wash across all pages, so that the use of colour is subtle and varied.
This is really not a book to get on ereader - the subtlety of texture, the vibrancy of colour and shape need to be appreciated in the larger size of a book's pages.
I was extremely fortunate to be offered this by Headline, as a review copy.
My only regret is that I missed knowing about this book till a few days after Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell and Foursquare repeated the performed event of the story. Seeing these illustrations stage sized, having the author read his tale aloud and with the underscore, sitting rapt with others whilst this played out, must have been a magnificent occasion
Thank you to Headline for providing me with a copy of this book
I have never read a book quite like this and to be honest it is extremely unlikely I will again, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains is a beautiful book, I was lucky enough to see the hardback version and it is just divine.
Neil Gaiman who some of you may know as the author of Stardust, American Gods and many others initially released the text from this book back in 2010 but he has now come together with illustrator Eddie Campbell to produce a really dark magical story, I toyed with the idea of reading it with my oldest daughter whose is seven but at the last minute decided to savour it all by myself, I am glad as it may have been a little dark for her young tastes, saying that she is obsessesed with finding out about Macbeth so maybe I should have!
The story is set in the highlands of my beautiful country Scotland back in what felt like Jacobite times, men still wear kilts and women do what they are told, both text and illustration takes us on the journey of a man who is different to everyone else, he is a dwarf, he takes a journey with his sought out companion to find the mysterious Misty Isle and the cave that is hidden shrouded in the gloom and is said to hold riches, their path ahead is fraught with dangers both human and not so.
The two companions make an unlikely pairing but will they succeed in their journey and will the cave hold what they have been seeking?
This book has been inspired by the beautiful and magical island of Skye a place I have been lucky enough to visit several times, the illustrations that appear on every page truly add to the story bringing to life the dark haunting journey of these two men and who and what they meet on their way to the Misty Isle.
A gorgeous dark read.
Awarded 5 out of 5
Set on the Isle of Skye in Scotland a long time ago, a dwarf visits a man who knows the location of a cave far away in the mountains - a cave that contains gold to make a man rich for a lifetime. So begins the pair’s perilous quest into the darkness ahead…
I know Neil Gaiman has a LOT of female fans, legions of them who probably outnumber the male fans, so it’s going to be interesting to see their reaction to this book as the female characters - all two of them - are treated very badly.
Gail Simone’s theory of the woman in the fridge - when a female character is maimed and/or killed in order to advance a male character’s story - is very pertinent here as the death of a woman is the driving motivation behind this book. Meanwhile, the other female character is beaten and raped while our two “heroes” do their best to ignore it rather than step in. I suppose you could argue that it’s Gaiman showing the readers his narrator’s complexity as a character - that he would do so much for one female character but not for another.
Short stories really are Gaiman’s forte. His novels are uneven but I find his short story collections - Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things - to be outstanding and he excels in The Truth is a Cave… in crafting a story that’s part folk/fairy tale and part horror with some powerful real human moments too.
The story builds in a satisfyingly slow burn, starting in a way that feels like you know where it’s headed with some strange images popping up that, in hindsight, reveal themselves to be increasingly relevant foreshadowings as the tale unwinds so that you shouldn’t be surprised when the story takes a left turn and then another, but you are. Little moments like the dwarf running nimbly ahead of the man seem oddly magical under Gaiman’s hand while the fantastical, like what lies within the cave, seem terribly real.
The book’s genesis started when Gaiman offered to read the story at the Graphic Literary Festival in the Sydney Opera House in 2010 with artist Eddie Campbell providing pictures to be shown behind Gaiman as he read accompanied by a string quartet playing background music (I know, very… art-y!). Since then, Campbell’s added to the pictures until there were enough to create this book which is a bit like an illustrated novella, a bit like a comic, and a bit like a picture book, while never being either one!
Campbell’s painted images are very beautiful and suits the fantastical, scenic story with page after page celebrating nature and the forbidding, isolated atmosphere of the tale. He also experiments with his style to alternately shift from paint to inks to incorporating photographs into his pictures at various moments. Certain times through the story he’ll resort to comic panelling. I quite like Campbell’s art so I had no complaints about his work on this book except for one thing - the lettering in those panels.
It’s definitely true that you never notice how important lettering is in a comic until you read one which has bad lettering, and I was surprised at how poorly lettered Campbell’s panels were, especially considering his lengthy career in comics. Scratchy, shaky letters done in a spidery hand that looked rushed, they were the only aspect of this book that let the reader down.
The Truth is a Black Cave in the Black Mountains isn’t a perfect book but it is a highly compelling one. It’s an evocative story of revenge and death with fantastic paintings that lend new energy and interpretation to Gaiman’s haunting tale. His female fans may find their lips curling in disgust at times but when the story is this good, it’s hard to keep from turning the pages until you find out what happens in the end. A great horror fable from a brilliant short story writer with a terrific artistic collaborator.
on 7 July 2014
I am not long back from the Usher Hall, where I was lucky enough to experience this tale performed by Neil Gaimen, accompanied by the gorgeous visuals of Eddie Campbell and the unearthly score from FourPlay (am amazing string quartet from Australia...check out their music if you get the chance, it is truly evocative). The event took my breath away and I hope a DVD is released at some point, or preferably, another live tour. As this was the last date on the tour however, I would highly recommend this book, along with the audio book, so you can listen to Mr Gaimens dulcet tones and immerse yourself in the artwork and eeries sounds.
If your budget does not stretch to both, then your preferred method of literary consumption should dictate your purchase choice. I am addicted to audio books, especially if read by Gaimen. During the performance, I also found my attention focused on the sounds over the visuals. That being said, the visuals were expertly rendered with the Scottish colour palette and almost minimalist in design. They definitely added to the overall impact of the story.
Spoiler free: The story is linked with Scottish island mythos and legend. We follow a diminutive stranger and his guide on a quest to find the titular black mountain cave. This is a perilous journey and as the protagonists progress, the intricacies of the plot unravel around them. If you have read anything by Mr Gaimon, then you understand how complex and obscure his characters tend to be, with more and more details unfolding the longer you spend with them.
I was gripped from start to finish and believe whichever of the options you choose, you will be in for a treat.
"You ask me if I can forgive myself? I can forgive myself for many things. For where I left him. For what I did. But I will not forgive myself for the year that I hated my daughter..."
So starts this dark tale of a journey, a quest into the Black Mountains to find a cave - to find the truth. Our narrator is a small man, a dwarf, but he's strong and he's driven; by what, we don't yet know but we feel a slow anger in him, an undiminished determination despite his ten year search for the object of his obsession. As we meet him, he is about to hire a guide, Calum MacInnes, to take him to a cave on the Misty Isle which is reputed to be filled with gold...
This book is nothing less than stunning. Gaiman's wonderfully dark story is equalled and enhanced by the amazingly atmospheric illustrations of Eddie Campbell. The two elements - words and pictures - are completely entwined. There's no feeling of the one being an addition to the other - each is essential and together they form something magical. The tale is by turns moving, mystical, dramatic, frightening; and the illustrations, many of them done in very dark colours, create a sense of mirky gloom and growing apprehension and, as the story darkens, some of the later pictures are truly macabre and unforgettable.
Gaiman was apparently inspired to write the story by his visits to the Isle of Skye and the legends of the Hebrides. While the pictures quite clearly place the story in the Highlands - the kilts, the purples and greens, the blackness of the mountains - Gaiman has very wisely steered clear of any attempt to 'do' dialect. The book is written in standard English, but with the lush layering of traditional legends and with a rhythm in the words that really calls for it to be read aloud. Perhaps this isn't surprising since the story was originally devised to be read by Gaiman himself at the Sydney Opera House with Campbell's illustrations projected as a backdrop. I was the lucky, lucky recipient of a hardback copy of the book, but apparently the Kindle Fire edition has audio and video links, though to what I don't know. However, the book is so beautiful that, devoted though I am to my Kindle, this is one where I would strongly recommend the paper version.
All the way through, the story is foreshadowing the eventual end as if to suggest that all things are fore-ordained. It's well worth reading the book twice in fact (it's only 73 pages) - the first reading has all the tension of not knowing how it ends, while the second reading allows the reader to see how carefully Gaiman fits everything together to create the folk-tale feeling of inevitability. And then read it again a third time, just because it's wonderful. I end where I began - stunning!
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Headline.
At first glance, this looks like a children's book.
But if you look at the skull in the mountainside, and the title... not so much. No, "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds" is one of Neil Gaiman's many short stories, here fleshed out with Eddie Campbell's odd assortment of illustrations and comics -- a dark, murky little tale of Scotland, revenge and the fantastical.
An unnamed Scottish dwarf approaches a former reaver, Callum MacInnes, to help him find a certain cave on the Misty Isle. The cave is said to be filled with gold, and only a few people can find it. The two men journey to that island and make their way to the cave -- but Callum warns his employer that the gold inside has a strange curse on it, which makes everything in life "less." But the dwarf's goal isn't mere gold -- he wants revenge, and he will do whatever it takes to get it.
Neil Gaiman is one of the greatest storytellers alive at telling us tales of dark, strange places occupied by otherworldly creatures. "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains" is a sort of fairy tale, and it's a picture book... but it's not really the kind that you give to kids. Oh, a kid could read it, but it's a very dark, grim tale about poetic revenge, murder and a very spooky cave-dwelling creature.
This is also one of those stories that could be set in any time period or any place. Gaiman chooses the Jacobean era of Scottish history, with the dwarf's excuse that he wants the gold so he can help restore the King Over The Water. Lots of windblown heather, mist, stony cliffs and a hint of faery goings-on (the protagonist refers to his father as being "from the West," and I don't think he meant the Americas).
One of the most interesting aspects of the story is that Gaiman keeps you guessing what exactly is going on throughout the story. It's obvious that SOMETHING is unsaid between these men (especially when Callum threatens the dwarf with a knife while he's sleeping) but he
And since this is a short story instead of a full-length novella, Gaiman's work is augmented by Eddie Campbell's illustrations -- sometimes it's just a swath of color, sometimes pictures, and sometimes he even creates little graphic-novel panels.
And those pictures bring an extra splash of life to "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds," a powerful little story from a master storyteller. Just don't tell it to your kids before bedtime.
on 17 November 2014
I first heard of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman and Eddie Campbell when I read a review on a book blog. I was still yet to read anything by Gaiman, and as this is a novelette rather than a full length novel, I thought it would be a great way to introduce me to his work without committing to full novel if I wasn't keen. After reading The Sleeper and the Spindle by Gaiman and loving it, I decided I had to pick up The Truth fairly soon. And I really enjoyed it!
Our narrator, a dwarf who isn't named, seeks the help of Calum MacInnes to guide him to a cave on Misty Isles. Calum MacInnes has been there before, and our narrator seeks the treasure that is rumoured to be hidden in the cave. The story is of their journey to the cave, meeting few people, talking but little. We learn of our narrator's lost daughter, of Calum MacInnes own journey, and his fear of the cave and what it does to a man. But there is far much more to their journey searching for a cave and seeking gold.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book, because for the most part, I wasn't enjoying it. It seemed to me that getting to the cave, finding the treasure and whatever would happen then was the point of this book, but it took a while to get there. Everything that led up to that is written as if it's almost unimportant; some random conversations, a few random meetings, and lots of descriptions of the scenery. To be honest, I was bored. I just wanted them to hurry up and get there and get to the good stuff.
But it was only when they did, once the story had ended, that I realised that there was more to the journey than just making their way to the cave. Everything said suddenly took on a completely different meaning. I found myself jumping back to the beginning, to various parts in the middle, reading little bits and marvelling over how now they had relevance. What seemed ordinary now seems much darker. Now that I know where the story is going, I want to read it over, and catch everything I dismissed before. For me, this is a book to be appreciated once I'd finished.
The images in this book aren't really my cup of tea, and I think that's part of the reason why I had trouble with it the first time most of the journey. For the most part, they're dark and dismal, and some are almost "roughly" painted. But with hindsight, they actually really suit the story and the environment the two men travel through. There are a vast array of images; canvas paintings, illustrated comic sections, montages of photos of landscapes and animals that are illustrated over, and others. So many different forms of media are used in the images in this book, and even though they're not really my thing, I have to acknowledge the talent of Campbell, because he has a vast range of skills! My only real issue is that on some pages, the text is on the background of images rather than a white background specifically for the text, and it can be a little difficult to read. But the images are really striking, and it's really something to see a comic alongside a canvas painting. Very different!
A dark, powerful and surprisingly emotional tale of some of the uglier sides to being human. A really great novelette! Definitely want to read more by Gaiman!