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.

Looking at The Ocean at the End of the Lane's summary above, it seems like the story is not anything that you have never read before. An old man recounting his past. But this is one of those books that I will probably remember for a long while, if anything else for it's mood and it's tone and it's setting. It has an atmosphere that enthralls you. Haunting, mystical, eerie and mysterious. But it wasn't all that you feel like you are in a strange land, by which I mean that you feel lost in a surreal world. There is also that feeling of comfort in the story. A child's comfort. The comfort of your own home or your own room, or in this case, George's before Ursula Monkton came, and the comfort that the Hempstock Farmhouse brought to him as well. It has a strong sense of place, this story. Neil Gaiman also recounts everything with such vividness that at one point I jumped when I heard a flapping sound. (It turned out to be our house help shaking off dirt from our rubber mat) The scenes are striking and lucid. You hear the ripping and the flapping, you see the varmits darken the sky, you taste the creaminess of Bessie's milk, you feel the breath go out of you when they plunged into The Pond that was The Ocean.

After reading this book, I realized that if Neil Gaiman ever turned himself into a book, it'll be this one. It seems like a composite of his works. I see some Coraline in it, a bit of The Graveyard Book, a little of Stardust, and even American Gods and Anansi Boys. I don't mean that in a negative sense, that the work no longer feels original because that's not how I feel about it. in fact I am happy about it. It's a book brimming of all things Neil Gaiman, his ideals and beliefs. How he feels about myths and fairy tales, his adoration of books and words, about memories that fade and those that stays with us to shape our identity, about how a child thinks differently than adults, about growing up and changing and yet staying the same. It's about friendship, a good old childhood friendship that never fades.

At this point, I am a big enough fan that I don't think Neil Gaiman can do me wrong. The Ocean at The End of the Lane deserves all the praises it has been getting and I just heaped mine along with them. 

Awards Received: Goodreads Choice for Fantasy (2013), Specsavers Book of the Year (2013)
Challenge entry no. 17


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