|The Ocean at the End of the Lane
3 / 5
"It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn't very big."
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.
I dunno. I think Neil Gaiman is brilliant and I always enjoy his work, but there is something about his magical realism that just isn't for ME, exactly. He writes these great fairy tales of stories, and they charm me and enthrall me, but I come away from them a bit uncertain of what it was I was supposed to "get" from them, outside of a brief respite from the real world. Perhaps that's all I'm SUPPOSED to get, and if that's the case, then Gaiman certainly does what he set out to accomplish! I really enjoyed the narrative of this book (despite some disgusting parts that had me cringing!), and the story itself was quaint, original, and perfectly magical. But even the narrator himself agrees that he didn't really grow or change at all during the course of this part of his life, despite all that happens to him. And having been told that explicitly, I came away from the story unsure of what I was supposed to have gotten from it, myself. Even fairy tales tend to have messages. This, rather, was a fantastical little book about a childhood encounter with the supernatural. I enjoyed the characters - especially the narrator as a young boy - and the descriptions were incredible, even those that were very surreal. However, of all the Neil Gaiman I've read thus far, this probably won't be recommended to anyone who isn't already a serious Gaiman fan. Cute, enjoyable, but...just not enough there for me, I guess.
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