Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman It was with great excitement that I bought – and immediately started reading – Gaiman’s new novel. At the end I thought:

1. I really want a black fluffy kitten
2. and a friend like Lettie would be great, too
3. “that pond” is really a boring name for the expanse of water in my neighborhood
4. Adults can be scary sometimes
5. and children even more so
6. Imagination is the most powerful thing we own
7. and sometimes the most dangerous
8. Magic is not a waving of the wand and incantations
9. at least not anymore
10. Why is this book less than 200 pages long?
11. I really wanted more.

Childhood. Memories that stay buried deep within until the sight of a familiar house brings them back like an avalanche. A friend. Gone but not really gone, because what are memories but scenes of life we can play again and again in our heads and we never get tired of them. An old, kind woman, so old she claims to remember things that other people might find weird, to say the least. And a pond, which is not really a pond, but something else.

The protagonist of the story is only seven when he meets Lettie Hempstock who lives on Hempstock Farm. She is a few years older than him and she tells him things that don’t really make sense unless you’re young and innocent and you believe in everything, even if that everything means you’ll have to stretch your imagination quite a bit. She introduces him to a world of wonder and terror, of amazing food (made me hungry just reading about that) and real monsters, the kind that burrow into your skin and don’t come out.

But even with these weird things happening, I found myself nodding my head and saying it all makes sense. Yes, even when you read about cutting off events and sewing back the fabric of time, it still sounds perfectly normal. This is the magic I’m talking about, and in Gaiman’s book there’s plenty of that. The writing flows easily, at times so smooth and easy that it felt like reading a poem, each word carefully crafted and placed in its rightful little niche, creating a melody of words I was sorry to leave behind. And when I finished it I cried, not because the ending was sad, but because Gaiman’s book had managed to open a door in me and now I had to close it. And I felt sad and utterly alone again.

Some beautiful quotes:

“That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together…”

“Everything here is so weak, little girl. Everything breaks so easily. They want such simple things. I will take all I want from this world, like a child stuffing its fat little face with blackberries from a bush.”

“How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow. There can never be a time when you forget them, when you are not, in your heart, questing after something you cannot have, something you cannot even properly imagine, the lack of which will spoil your sleep and your day and your life, until you close your eyes for the final time, until your loved ones give you poison and sell you to anatomy, and even then you will die with a hole inside you, and you will wail and curse at a life ill-lived.”

Read in August, 2013

Posted in The Book on The Nightstand | 14 Comments