Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Summary from Goodreads: 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: I didn't know what to think of this book for the longest time. Its definitely a little different, and a little on the creepy side. I haven't read many books that I had to check out from the "horror" section, most of my darker type books come from mystery/suspense. I read this a few months ago and wasn't sure if I was going to put it here on the blog. I finally decided do after it was the book club selection last month and I had a chance to talk through it in a group and work through my thoughts, helping me appreciate it more. Just giving some background here, don't stop reading!

The first thing I noticed about the book was that it was beautifully written. The author did a fantastic job describing events, allowing you to easily picture what you are reading. The main story is told from the perspective of a very young boy and the author also does a great job writing from this perspective of imagination and innocence. I found myself thinking over and over that the boy was acting and thinking exactly how I thought a small boy would under the circumstances.

Overall, I think the last paragraph of the summary is spot on, that stories like this have the power to revel darkness and really speak of larger themes in humanity. How would we handle a scary situation that we didn't fully comprehend? What does it mean to be a good person, are there any specific benchmarks that have to be reached? Do we have any control of our circumstances? How do we reconcile different motivations that may prompt us to act? How long should we hold onto memories of events that shaped us, do they eventually loose their potency?

I'm sure its obvious, but I'm still working through some of my thoughts, which I actually take as a positive. This is definitely one of those books that sticks with you and makes you think about it, in my case months after reading. If you are in the mood for something that is a little creepy but won't necessarily give you nightmares, then I would recommend it. Its a quick read that gives a lot of bang for your buck.

Overall Rating: 4 of 5 stars

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