Review: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

Truth is a caveBy Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Eddie Campbell

Headline, out June 17

A tale of hatred, revenge and self-discovery in the Misty Isle…

Neil Gaiman’s short story on its own is a haunting piece, as a father seeks help looking for the Misty Isle. He gains it from Calum MacInnes, who leads him across the rugged country, eventually learning the truth about what lies within the cave – but one man’s truth isn’t necessarily another’s. The story has been published as part of a collection, and like much of Gaiman’s work, it continues to whisper in your mind long after you’ve read it.

However, The Truth… has another incarnation: for a reading of the story at the Sydney Opera House, Gaiman had Australian artist Eddie Campbell paint various depictions of scenes from the tale. These have been added to quite considerably for this new version, which, as Gaiman himself says, isn’t prose or a graphic novel – he calls it a story with pictures (of the sort which children are enamoured, although not by any stretch of the imagination is this a work for people of that age), with some dialogue depicted in graphic form, but the majority of it presented as prose.

It’s something more than that too – Campbell has created visions from Gaiman’s text which add to the all-pervading sense of wrongness about the Cave in the Black Mountains, and the effects that it has on people. Eschewing the obvious pictures (Gaiman talks of a golden eagle at one point, but a double page spread for the picture accompanying this is more graphic for not including it), Campbell’s illustrations envelop the senses.

(There’s a third version too, with music by the FourPlay String Quartet, which Gaiman is performing at the Barbican in London in early July: details here )

Verdict: A haunting tale that becomes a piece of art. 9/10

Paul Simpson

Check out our review of Fortunately, The Milk here


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