The Sandman: The Doll’s House



A quick glance at the title for this collection may easily remind you of Ibsen’s classic work, but in his second novel in the Sandman saga, Gaiman stretches about as far away from realism as possible.  He guides his readers back into a ever-shifting mythological world where fantastical concepts take human form and dreams are quite literally of the essence.   In the realm of The Sandman, there’s only one reality one can rest in safely; questions will always be asked, and answers will seldom be given.  The question this time:  What is the nature of desire?  Do we hold the reins, or are our lives’ destinies determined by our unshakable thirst for that which we may never possess?


DC Comics


Neil Gaiman


September 1989-June 1990




The Doll’s House opens with a brief prologue, Tales in the Sand.  When Dream takes a walk through a Persian city, he captures the eyes of beautiful Queen Nada, who falls instantly in love with him.  When she can’t find him again, she embarks on a long journey  to declare her love to him.  What will interest readers here is the look into Dream’s love life, and how he deals with his own deepest desires, especially when they are denied to him.  Personally, it’s my favorite one-shot in the series so far; it reads like a fable, and it carries the same tone Gaiman found in The Sound of Her Wings. 


The major story arc here surrounds Rose Walker, a young woman whose life is up-ended when she learns of her link to the Dreaming.  She’s a dream vortex, a kind of anomaly that if not dealt with, will lead to the destruction of the Dreaming itself.  She also discovers a long-lost relative (Unity Kinkaid from Preludes and Nocturnes) and finds out that her brother, Jed, is being held captive and abused by her aunt and uncle. And she’s also somehow managed to stay at a hotel that’s running a serial killers convention.


Gaiman’s work on this arc is more precise than his previous volume.  It’s easy to tell that he’s found direction, as the plot drives forward towards its climax.  Still,  he manages to slip up now and then.  The story hits its low points when it centers around Jed and Dream’s two bumbling servants, Brute and Glob.  He also throws another obscure DC character into the mix.  And although his efforts are thematically relevant, they don’t quite stick.  It’s difficult to get emotionally involved.


But Collectors is one hell of an issue; it’s drenched in dark comedy and satire  In it,  Gaiman takes a bold step by comically comparing the mindset of serial killers to the monomaniacal American Dream.  And Men of Good Fortune, although unrelated to the overall arc, is good fun.  Dream receives some extra character development when Death grants a man immortality.


Even with it’s minor hang-ups, The Doll’s House is Neil Gaiman’s first masterpiece in the Sandman Saga.  It’s a welcome addition to the series.





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