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

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Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism
Author: Neil Gaiman
Date Published: June 18, 2013
Size: 143
Publisher: William Morrow
Edition: eBook


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.

Review

Quickie: I don't know why as I was reading this book, not only do I felt like a child again but someone ancient.

Like the way I feel after finishing a Neil Gaiman book, I'm left with the question, "What now?" or "What will be?" Although sometimes readers are left with a feeling of knowing where things are headed, well, I think that often Gaiman's books are such a cliffhanger. You know that it has ended entirely but you wish you know what really is going to happen next. Or even if you know what's going to happen, you'd still wish the author would actually write it. But that's why I love Gaiman's style.

The foreword was a very curious one. And the prologue much curioser. I initially read those parts of the book just to know whether I'd proceed to read or not. Damn, I sat on this one.

I like how it got me so engrossed. Much more on how I felt so much at the edge especially when I met Ursula Monkton.

I really hate infidelity. Perhaps, the saddest and the most infuriating thing that happened to me in this book was seeing the protagonist's father plowing this pretty housekeeper with all that stuff of "skirt hiked up around the waist" as he had her pressed up against the wall. While that would sound sexy in a romantic book, it is really heart-wrenching in a seemingly child's book (which I believe this book really isn't). And yes, that was the most emotional part of the book to me and not Lettie's demise.

Although as a reader, I know that Ursula wasn't human that she's entirely something else, just the thought that your father is cheating and doing dirty deeds with your supposed housekeeper who is pretty is just gritting. I don't know in what way I could say how much and to what extent I hate that.

"I never made any of them do anything" was Ursula's last words. That was probably the salt to a wound. The father disciplining the son by trying to drown him in the bathtub just because the son "hurt" his mistress' feelings (yes, I would say mistress already) was just too much. It's a crying shame our baby protagonist here wasn't able to drown him back although he sure looked triumphant on abling to choke his father on the water with his tie.

Initially, Ursula said to our 7-year-old protagonist that she could command her pets (in this case, his family) to do as she bids. When his father drowned him in the tub, I thought I could forgive him because he was just under the influence of someone who isn't human. But when Ursula said those last words, I could say that everything about that tub incident was the father. He was not "under the spell" of Ursula, he was doing what he's capable of when smitten by somebody's beauty who isn't his wife. It just shows how much evil one can do when anguished and defending the wrong cause. (Or philandering men are just evil.)

But then I appreciate the way how Gaiman has written the story in little George's perspective. In the beginning of the story, you could actually give respect toward his parents and you'd see how much his parents love him especially after that sad birthday incident. You could see how loving his father was towards him. And then Ursula happened. Whatever his father had done to him because of Ursula was totally uncalled for. I didn't expect that. I thought his father has such an iron backbone as he was respectful towards his own son before Ursula. And then, he was just like every philandering man. But George still respects him getting old.

**Might contain spoilers**

I didn't anticipate the ending part. The version in our protagonist's memory was heart-wrenching already- Lettie protecting him as he decides to put an end to it all. Ursula was like a dirt to the earth plane. Where there's dirt, there are cleaners. And the cleaners are such horrifying huge monsters of shadows. And George was to be cleaned too as he was made Ursula's gateway to where she came from.

If George's version was nerve-wracking, the truth was much harder to take. Not that because 7-yr-old George actually had his heart torn and was dead but because Lettie did something (for which the readers don't know nothing about if it were not for George's own version of memory) to have his life back in exchange for her own.

The Hempstock women said Lettie didn't die but will soon be returned by the ocean. Only time can tell. It had been 40 years for George and things for the Hempstocks seem not to change even one bit. I never thought there could be such a thing as waiting in this book. I thought it was just all about recollection. Finishing the story left me with a longing sensation.

I still don't know what the real subject matter was for this story. I don't think it is simply about nostalgia, of a recollection of childhood long lost. Is it about a lost first love? Some daddy issues? Those themes are the ones that surfaced in the story. Or is it about the universe thingy again, of the eternal knowledge of life as a whole as no one would graduate on that even old dying people.

One thing is clear to me though: I enjoyed reading the book the way I did for Gaiman's other books. This one is like a children's book but it stirred so much emotions for me not just as a child but also as an adult (I'm 23) and it brought back memories that only anger me and sometimes, memories that only put me in such a very sad state (but I love longing for something or someone).

Quotations to go by:
Adults follow paths.
Children explore.
Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.
I thought about adults. I wondered if that was true: if they were all really children wrapped in adult bodies, like children’s books hidden in the middle of dull, long books. The kind with no pictures or conversations.

Recommendations: Feeling nostalgic? This is a book for kids of all ages. Whether you are a little kid with equally little knowledge of life as a whole or someone suffering from midlife crisis, so long as you know how to read, this one is for you to enjoy.

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