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The ocean at the end of the lane / Neil Gaiman

August 19, 2013
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This novel is rather peculiar and I’m not sure if I liked it or not. It’s a bit quirky, magical, metaphysical and myth-like, and falls into no particular genre really. It begins with the central character, an unnamed man of forty odd, travelling back to his childhood home. Visiting the Hempstock Farm at the end of his old road, he suddenly remembers how he first met them, and the rest of the story is narrated by him  as a child.The narrator was an unusual boy, who lived in a world of books and had no friends. Until one day he met eleven-year old Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. They seemed to be able to read minds from afar, make strange things happen, and they had a pond in their backyard, that was really an ocean when you swam in it. An event occurred which “ripped” a hole in the fabric of reality or time or space (I didn’t quite understand this part I’m afraid), and an entity found its way into our world. This entity could manipulate people and things, and threatened the life of the boy. His only hope was Lettie.

Obviously, she did save him because he made it to adulthood, but because the narrative is in first-person present-tense, somehow you forget this and the action becomes quite immediate and intense.

I find myself strangely ambivalent about this book, although it does fester in the imagination. That said, I did read it quickly because I wanted to find out what happened to the narrator.  This is a story that could be read by any age, as different aspects will appeal to different age groups.  It reminded me of what it’s like to be a child, but for the most part, this book made me feel oddly disturbed – like my idea of the world has been shaken up.  Fans of Gaiman will no doubt enjoy it, and others will have their minds expanded.

– Natalie

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