Page 45 Review by Stephen
Well, this brought a tear to Neil Gaiman's eye.
Even my own cold, black heart has been warmed thoroughly through, and has burst into every colour of the rainbow.
It's a very quiet book in which actions speak louder than words.
"This is a boy named Julian. And this is his Nana.
"And those are some mermaids.
"Julian LOVES mermaids."
Are they mermaids? Look a little closer.
By this very first page I'd already fallen in love, particularly with Nana, firstly because of her body form which fills her voluminous clothes and - along with her hooded eyes and slightly sagging jowls - suggests a weight as well as wealth of experience; also on account of her silent, attentive gaze which is far from cloying but instead watchful and wise
But you're not at all sure what Nana is thinking.
One suspects that she is given to keeping her own counsel.
Julian drifts into an aqueous reverie in which he sinks slowly into water, jettisoning his clothes to swim up and unconstrained with a wave of schooling sea life, thrilling in their vibrant colours and exhilarating diversity! I'm no marine biologist, but I'm pretty sure that only the same species of fish school together in such a coordinated fashion. Here, however, swim are all manner of rays, jellyfish, a rich red and orange octopus then a deep blue eel whose tail suggests that Julian might be a mermaid too.
Indeed, he tells Nana precisely that, as they walk from the train to Nana's front door.
"Nana, did you see the mermaids?"
"I saw them, honey."
"Nana, I am also a mermaid."
He looks up at his Nana, gingerly, unsure what to expect.
Her eyes look deep into his.
"I'm going to take a bath," she says when inside. "You be good."
Will Julian be good...?
I love the choice of a smooth but subtly pulp-textured cardboard brown as the book's paper base on which the paint rests and glows, so that the story is permeated with warmth and outright heat in the noon-day streets where an old man is understandably sedentary while a trio of giggling girls plays in the spray of a water hydrant. It's especially effective for the intricately laced edges of the diaphanous cream curtains which at first billow in the breeze then form a trail like a tail.
Because no, Julian isn't going to be good, exactly, and I'm not sure at all what Nana is going to make of her potted fern being cropped, her mirrored dresser's tulips being redeployed, her lipstick being borrowed and her curtain taken down then repurposed!
Actually, her initial reaction is quite the picture of quietly controlled, cheek-flushed, scowling indignation!
Without a word, she walks off to dress, leaving Julian to silently contemplate his ceremonial self in the mirror. Still, he does look radiant!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand that's where I'll leave you.
I'll also leave you with the promise that the last dozen pages are going to bring big, beaming smiles to your beautiful faces because you are all inclusive wonders with love in your hearts!
As is our Nana, for she has been listening.