Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Legend of the Hempstocks

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is the author’s most recent book and another brilliant escape into magical realism. After returning to his home town, a man finds his way down to the old farmhouse and pond that he had forgotten existed. Once he gets onto the property, a flood of memories return, nightmares and miracles that were long forgotten. The Hempstock women live on this farm. When the boy was seven he became friends with Lettie Hempstock, a girl who looks eleven, but is wise and capable beyond her years. One day she took him to the other side of the farm with the orange skies. What was supposed to be a quick trip to quell a problem turned into a nightmare that left the boy marked and unleashed a terrible force on this world and especially the boy’s family.

Gaiman did a marvelous job creating a beautiful story and legend in under 150 pages. The man is a marvel. The Hempstocks, especially Lettie and Old Mrs. Hempstock, are extraordinary characters that made me feel safe within the covers of the book. They’re comforting, friendly, wise, and trustworthy. I wanted to walk into their kitchen and sit down for a meal. The story is rich, but contained. Gaiman didn’t try to overdo the details or explain everything about who or what the Hempstocks are. This left me both satisfied and craving more. I wanted more about the women who police unknown creatures, yet lead an unassuming life. Although I’m happy it wasn’t a Tolkein-esque novel, Gaiman certainly has a story worthy of many more tales.

The author does a beautiful job of representing childhood in his character and throughout the novel. The boy keeps to himself and is a book fiend. Gaiman is a lover of stories and he alw
ays has superb portrayals of the impact of books. In this novel, it’s no different. The boy finds his escape, bravery, and ideas about how to be adventurous in his stories. All of the reading the boy does, along with being a child, helps him understand and deal with the world of the Hempstocks and the frightening world beyond the farmhouse.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a book that will stay with you. I enjoyed reading it and hope that Gaiman will write more about the Hempstocks.

[Recently, I read Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and one of the ghosts is a witch with the last name Hempstock…]

If you enjoyed this novel try these others:
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly: A boy finds refuge in his books after the loss of his mother, but soon his fairy tale world starts becoming real and mirroring his real life.

Touch by Alexi Zentner: Sawgamet is a town filled with legend and superstition. A man reflects on his childhood and the stories his grandfather told him about the magical and mysterious logging town he built.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: Two boys must save their town, when a mysterious man comes to town. Suddenly dark secrets and wishes come to the surface and the boys learn you must be careful what you wish for. 

~Kristin M.

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