Friday, June 28, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description: 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.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

My thoughts: In usual Neil Gaiman style, this is an odd and extraordinary book. It's more like his book Stardust than the Book Thief. He mixes the ordinary, burnt toast that is cold thus embarrassing, with the extraordinary, Old Mrs. Hempstock likes the full moon to hang so she can see at night. She also remembers when the moon was made.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a one-sitting book. Open it and read the first chapter and you are swallowed up in the details of every day life with hints of the extraordinary and the odd. There is an opal miner who runs over the protagonist's kitten. He had a very red face and suspenders. He replaced the kitten with a mean tom cat that slinked around. Then the mini was stolen but before the family realized it was stolen, it was found. At the end of the Lane. Where the Hempstocks live. The circumstances of the mini being stolen and found are not such that a 7 year old boy should be exposed to and so the youngest Hempstock takes him back to her house where the real fun begins. You know, with a dead fish in the pond, er, I mean ocean.

Rather than tell the story, I will simply say that the time spent reading it is delightful and best read with a British accent in your head. If you are familiar with the British accents, add a Sussex country twang. The writing is charming and perfect in every way. The story is original and wonderful. So highly recommend. But I still liked Stardust better.


Melissa McCurdy said...

Currently reading this and loving it. But haven't read Stardust.

Jo said...

I like what you said, "In usual Neil Gaiman style, this is an odd and extraordinary book. " I have had this sitting and waiting to be read ... and I guess I've just been waiting until I have some time where I can just sit and enjoy it without interruption (which hopefully will be later this week).

Nice review!