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Friday, July 12, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Hi everyone!
Welcome to the late night edition of Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers...the place that will be here for you long after that Friday night plan of yours is finished and you're looking for some good companionship to while away the rest of the night.  I mean really, what better way to pass the time than pondering over a new read?  That's what I thought.

Now, I don't know about you, but my Friday has been WAY past the point of usual with disappointment rearing its ugly head, shyness creeping out from the dark corner it was thrown into and just utter BLECH trying to rule the day.  Did it win?  A little, maybe...counteracted it with a movie (AFTER EARTH...good stuff!) and now some blogging.  Cie la vie, life goes on and tomorrow is another day but all that confusion led me to today's book of choice.  How so?  Well, you'll see.  Without further ado, our featured title of the day is...

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
William Morrow

About the book...
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.

Let me start this review by stating a fact some will find surprising and others may have already exposure to this author's work (as in hands on experience) is limited to my read of Coraline (MUCH better than the movie!) and this book.  *ahem*  No judging....Stardust is on my shelf for a read through and I've been instructed that the best way to introduce oneself to his work is by reading American Gods.  Had I only listened perhaps this one would have rated higher on my own personal reading meter.

There is a reason that I don't rate books as 1, 2, 3 whatevers and so on (unless a site requires it...and more power to those that do; freedom to choose what you do is one of the beauties of the bloggy world) and that is simply because a book like this perplexes me.  I simply wouldn't know what direction to go.  You see, here we have a mix of the highly fantastical (which was expected), a bit of mystic-type lore, a high dose of reality and a shadowy darkness that only holds itself at bay for so long.  The combination of it all leaves me pondering and pondering...and pondering some more.  Did I enjoy the elements used?  Yes...but the value of the three together still befuddles me.  Perhaps if I break it down a smidge, this might resemble a review more than a rambling of my mind.

The Hempstock's as a whole are a fascinating trio.  Lettie is a strong, likable girl despite the fact that appearance and wisdom are not an exact match.  She knows things a girl of her supposed years should not and has access to ancient words that could pull the sound straight from a room or create the very ground beneath your feet.  It's quite impressive and wielded with the utmost of good intentions but alas, as with all bouts of great power, slip ups happen.  Thank heavens she has both Ginnie and Old Mrs. Hempstock to fall back on...but sometimes, even powerful support is simply not enough.

On the edgier side of things we have an eerily flapping tent-like creature, Ursula Monkton the newest house guest and babysitter of this unfortunate family (unfortunate because of "her" presence) and the hunger birds (~shudders~).  Really and truly, there is no way to describe this diabolical team whom the term diabolical doesn't even really describe.  Are they evil?  I'll let you be the judge seeing as you'll be the reader and hence the interpreter, but if I understand things from the Hempstock's point of view, they are merely doing what they were designed to do, albeit in the wrong locale and to extremes that were never intended, but still a part of their original design.  Something to think about at the very least...

I'd like to add in our narrator, the young boy-turned-older-gent that comes back home for the funereal of a friend as a character of interest...but alas, I don't believe we are ever in fact given his name.  Curious, no?  Perhaps it makes it easier to climb into, the story that is, and project yourself in his shoes without him truly having an identity of sorts.  Then again, it could simply be to illustrate the fact that in this great big world and all the happenings in it, his name isn't of the least significance to the outcome or at the other end of the spectrum, that his name is held fast within him signifies how much his identity belongs to himself because a name IS a powerful thing.  See what I mean?  So many things to ponder, so many ways it could go and that's not even touching on the actual events that transpire!

We open with a death, flash back to a death, immerse ourselves in the strange and sometimes wonderful but more often not-so, all while reaching within ourselves to find a stronghold of power yet disturbed and a helping hand to guide us to a brighter end.  Oh and let me tell you, the end is SO not what you're imaging at the beginning.  It's so much MORE than that and yet not something that can be explained in any limited form.  *sigh*

To put it simply, you should read it.  Yep.  Said and done.  There's no two ways around it.  For fans of his work, I do believe this will enthrall and enchant.  For newbies to his writing, it's definitely a jumping off point that allows one to consider the possibilities in lieu of forming a hardcore solidified final opinion on his previously published works.  Did I enjoy the read?  Yes, I do believe I did...but don't ask me to pinpoint an exact thought or situation that created that answer because you'd have a better time convincing our young lad to exit the fairy circle.

Review copy received courtesy of the William Morrow marketing team.  (THANKS!)  For more information on this title as well as their growing catalog, be sure to stop by their official site or follow along on Twitter.  This title reached published status the later part of June and should be available now on a bookstore shelf near you.

Until next time...happy reading!


....Petty Witter said...

One of those authors I feel I should be reading but alas never seem to get around to. Perhaps this will be the book that has me doing so.

Juju at Tales of said...

Great review. I do need to read it. You are most right. :)

kimbacaffeinate said...

You have piqued my interest with the characters and the blended genres.

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