Thursday, May 5, 2016

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Magical Realism 
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover

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 (goodreads). 

Confusing, but still enchanting. 
Plot: If you've read any Neil Gaiman book in your life, you know that his prose is beautiful and his stories are unique. As someone used to either a short stories collection or giant novel (looking at your American Gods), I didn't know how to approach this 180-page baby of a book. I'm still not sure what happened with this book regarding the plot, but it was an interesting mix of fantasy with reality. This is definitely a book that will have you questioning what was real and what was imaginary, and I had a difficult time trying to understand what happened in the man's childhood. 

Characters: Interestingly enough, our main character was never named. While he is the main character, his character is moved by the actions of the Hempstock women. I found the main character's relationship with Lettie Hempstock very unprecedented because he depended on her to protect him from the evils of the world. In short, she served as his Knight in Shining Armor. I actually found his character dependent on Lettie for any sort of growth. 

The boy's family kept my attention because they were a pawn in the story's movement, but I really wished that I understood their involvement more. Seriously, this book was weird. 

Worldbuilding: I struggled with trying to place this novel in a time period. Our main character is in his mid-40s and he reflects back to a time of his childhood. I wasn't sure what era his childhood took place. There weren't any mentions of any historical events in the world, which I assume was Gaiman's intention. 

Short N Sweet: While a bit odd, The Ocean at the End of the Lane will enchant any Gaiman fan!


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