The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I liked this book - the story was interesting. But, I'm not going to lie - did I not understand it? I read some extremely literary fiction that makes absolute sense to me - I'm pouring through Wuthering Heights and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle simultaneously right now, and they both make more sense than this book did.
The novel begins with a man returning to his home town in England for a funeral. Let's just say his life hasn't gone according to plan and upon his return he revisits his childhood home, which has since been demolished. He travels down to the end of the lane where Lettie Hempstock used to live and asks to sit by her ocean, that is really a pond but the imagination runs wild in this novel.
And then we time travel through his memory. He was a quiet, bookish, seven year old boy different from his family. They are having financial struggles and he loses his room to renter; a mysterious opal miner that crosses too soon to the other side by questionable means, and dark events begin to occur.
Upon the opal miner's death, the young boy meets Lettie Hempstock, and out of nowhere she agrees to allow him to tag along as she takes a trip to an odd place that lies somewhere between this world and the next. (See - now this is where I start to get confused...I can't quite piece together why she suddenly invites him on such a possibly dangerous journey.) And as fate would have, a moment goes wrong in the place of evil and the boy's life is changed forever.
I did love Lettie Hempstock - the somewhat main character (she's why I kept reading). I guess the true protagonist was the little boy looking back on his life - a Mockingbirdesque feel to being a grown up and learning a lesson - and understanding how he's come to cope with his "piths and moments" of adulthood.
It's a short book and the writing is flawless. It's on the list for Battle of the Books for the 2015-2016 school year, but the author warns that this is not a fable for children...the reality is far too dark, and there are definitely some adult themes. After reading this, I've decided it's a metaphor, which is what makes it a simple, but challenging read.
This book is about drowning the demons, both literally and figuratively. And what happens in a life if one doesn't; and the lesson that there are those willing to save you.
Just a side note to add: I do LOVE Neil Gaiman in all his other books and writing advice!
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