Monday, July 15, 2013

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

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Pages: 181
Format: Kindle
Source: Personal purchase


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.

My thoughts:

I wrote this review 20 minutes after I finished the book. I cried for those 20 minutes and couldn't stop my tears. I didn't cry because the book was over; all good things do end eventually. I cried because Gaiman reminded me once again why I love words, stories and books. I cried because people who make fun of me saying, "you're holding onto the child in you way too tightly" will never get to discover this world. From now on, I'll hold onto that girl even tighter.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was published on June 18th. I got quite a few criticisms from friends who said, "you say you're in love with this author, yet you haven't even read his new book." What they don't get is... You can't just dive into Gaiman's world; it'd destroy you. You have to prepare yourself, decide where and how you'll read his book, make sure nobody will interrupt you, and open your mind to the idea that anything can be real. Only then should you hold Neil's hand and open the book.

I myself have been getting ready for this one for an entire week. I had to stay home on Saturday to wait for packages in the mail, so I've decided it would be a good time to read. I uploaded the book onto my Kindle, and uploaded the audiobook onto iTunes. I started reading right after breakfast. Some of it I read myself, some of it Neil read to me. In the end, I was crushed into a million pieces and found myself whole at the same time. 

If you ask me what's going on in this book... An adult remembers his childhood, the time when he was 7. A man who's renting a room at his house is found dead in his father's car at the end of the lane. When they go to see what's happened, they meet the Hempstock family, the family who lives on the farm at the end of the lane. Later, our narrator goes on a search for why the guy died and how with the 11-year-old Lettie Hempstock. That's when the adventure starts, and you dive right into Gaiman's dreamland, thinking, "this must be what it feels like to walk on water."

If you're one of those people who couldn't wait to grow up, you'll regret that you did that. If you still hold onto the child in you, as I've mentioned before, you'll embrace him/her even tighter. Next time he/she tries to drag you down a path, you won't question it as much as you used to, and realize that when you do that, you'll really be following your heart.

Adults follow paths. Children explore.

As a result, I fell in love with Neil Gaiman all over again. I reminisced about my childhood and thought of how I should thank my mother again for making me love books. I wished I could fill the ocean into a bucket and bring it home and then dive right in. I believed Lettie when she said the pond was actually an ocean, and I got mad at our narrator for questioning her logic. When the story got tense, I said, "I'm scared, Neil" silently, and I felt him hold my hand and squeeze it in reassurance, showing me there was nothing to fear, just like Lettie does to our narrator in the story.

I wished the journey would never ever end.

Neil's amazing wife Amanda Palmer blogged about what was going on while he was writing this book. And you can read that here.

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