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.
So, I had avoided reviews of Neil Gaiman’s latest release because I knew that, one day, I would get around to reading it. Because of this, I had pretty much no idea what this book was actually about, and, to be honest, I still kind of don’t. I mean, it was creepy and magical and reflective and kind of melancholy and I liked that.
The book started off quite slowly, and this means that you get to know the characters. Or at least you think you do. It becomes obvious early on that there is more to Lettie than she is letting on. And she is so cool. She and her awesome matriarchal family. And the way Lettie goes about showing the main character that there is a different world than the one he inhabits… she does it so gently and matter of factly that he is set in good stead for when that magical world not so subtly takes over his own.
I also loved the adult/child divide and how that was written so perfectly from a child’s perspective. His knowledge that his parents won’t believe him when he tells them that the family’s latest house keeper is actually some kind of manipulative demon, even though it’s true? It gives the story that great classic children’s adventure story feel, and it worked really well. The second half of the book reads so quickly, and so much happens, including the amazing ocean-in-a-bucket scene that I absolutely adored, that before you know it, you’ve reached the end.
It was kind of weird, and really quite creepy in parts, but I liked it. It’s not my favourite Neil Gaiman story by a long shot, but it was cool in a, you know, twisted adventure story type way.