A graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean that explores the memory of man regarding his youth, his family, and Punch and Judy puppet shows.< read all 3 reviews
It was loosely put together, and failed to offer up the blurbed promises of "A nightmarish world of violence and betrayal." Though the artwork is good, and Mr. Gaiman's prose is good, the book simply was unable to create even a low-level dread of the creepy Punch & Judy puppets.
It is simply a bland story of a young boy's memories of his Grandfather's failing arcade off the main attractions of a seaside business area.
The boy is sent to stay with his Grandparent's while his mother is due to deliver his baby sister, and he meets and old puppeteer who is not very mysterious and witnesses his grandfather have an argument with a young lady he is involved in. No real violence or threatening situations, merely a vaguely distorted view of some old puppets.
The prose is good, but rather pointless; the artwork is good and strangely done, but when put together to form the whole it came out rather unfulfilling and anticlimactic. A rather generic musing of a mundane summer.
If you have everything else by Neil Gaiman, then go ahead and fill up your collection with Mr. Punch, but this is not a good place to start to introduce yourself to Gaiman, and not recommended unless you are a die hard fan.
Pick up one of his novels first, or his Sandman series or Black Orchid which was beautifully done.
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The book follows the childhood memories of the narrator, illustrating various experiences in his life: fishing on the beach at dawn; his grandparents and how one grandfather went mad; a hunchback great-uncle; the betrayal of children by adults; fear of the unknown; an unwanted pregnancy, violence, possibly even murder.
The general story is paralleled with the traditional story of the Mr. Punch show, 'The oldest, the wisest play'. The narrator is first introduced to Mr. Punch when fishing with his grandfather, but encounters it, and a mysterious 'professor' (Punch & Judy man), during various other activities. The story of Mr. Punch, is that he kills his baby, then his wife Judy and the police officer who comes to arrest him. He outwits a ghost, a crocodile and a doctor, convinces the hangman to be hanged in his place and, at the play's end, even defeats the devil himself.
Like many of Gaiman's works, a major theme in this graphic novel is memory and the unreliability of one's own recollections.