Review by Sarah
June 2013 by William Morrow Books
Amazon + Good Reads
"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 Laneis 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."
If I could describe this book in two words, they would be: peculiar and captivating. This was my first Neil Gaiman novel, and I quickly became enamored with his style of writing and voice. I have a funny suspicion that Gaiman himself is both peculiar and captivating – thus it reflects in his writing.
Here is a list of things I found peculiar and captivating about this novel:
1. The protagonist doesn’t have a name. And I only realized upon completing the book. I have to say, I like this choice of having a nameless narrator, especially when his name wasn’t important at all.
2. Throughout the book, the narrator explains how adults and children differ. One of my favorite quotes is, “Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundred of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.” However, he is an adult telling the story. And mentions later on that there really are no adults in the world. Which I find to be exceptionally true.
3. The events of the book all happen over the course of one day. I usually am not a huge fan of 24-hour narrative arcs, but this one made it work.
4. There is a nanny in the book called Ursula. She is positively horrible. Makes me wonder if it’s a reference to The Little Mermaid, a childhood classic.
And the thing I find more peculiar and most captivating goes along with the idea of children and adults differing. I found myself not quite understand everything going on in this book. But I don’t think I was supposed to. As an adult, I think some of the elements, things children could understand easily and without question, were meant to challenge my thinking. I don’t know if Neil Gaiman meant to write his story this way, but I loved it regardless.
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