Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Publication Date:  June 18, 2013
Publisher:  William Morrow Books
Series:  Stand Alone
Pages:  181
Genre:  Fantasy
Synopsis:  Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Review:  My first reaction after finishing this book was, "What?" A week later, I'm still not sure what I think of it.  I cannot say I loved it, but I am sure as hell glad I read it.  I enjoyed my first venture into Neil Gaiman's world, and I will be returning sometime soon.

The writing is brilliant, though I cannot pinpoint the specific reason I enjoy it so much.  It is honest and straightforward, definitely whimsical and almost wistful.  The way Gaiman writes has a quality that makes you feel as if you are experiencing the events that are occurring firsthand.  The story itself is a recalled memory, and Neil Gaiman perfectly captured that nostalgic feeling. 

The setting is lonely but beautiful, a peaceful country road disturbed by monsters and ghosts.  There is a depth to the story I didn't expect.  It makes you wonder if the monsters hiding under the bed are real, if it is the adults that are blind to the truth only children can see.  

The child perspective from the nameless boy is so fitting for this fairy tale.  It allows you to view the world again as you did when you were little, full of endless possibilities and magic you lose as you grow older.  Even though the boy tells the story, it isn't necessarily about him.  No, the most fascinating characters are the Hempstocks.

The Hempstock ladies remind me of the three fates: the maiden, the mother, and the crone.  These women are infinite and forever, wise beyond their years, and one of the best parts of this book.  Out of the three women, Lettie is my personal favorite.  She is older than the universe, but she is still so young, a peculiar quality I love.  She has a spunk to her that really appeals to me. 

The magic in this book is terrifying, horrifying.  It is almost dream-like in its quality, something only imaginable when you are asleep. It is truly fascinating.  It isn't new or innovative, it is the same magic I have seen time and time again, but there is something ageless and haunting about it that I can't quite put my finger on. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane intrigues you, makes you think, and it lingers, sticking with you days after you've read it, always waiting at the edges of your thoughts.  It is a wondering sort of story, a children's book for adults.  This book is indescribable, so you will just have to read it for yourself.

4.5 Keys


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