My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
This is my third Neil Gaiman read (after American Gods and Coraline) and I’m now convinced I need every single book of his in my possession! After finishing this book I checked Audible to see if there is an edition narrated by the author and my heart literally swelled with happiness to discover there is! So yes, this book moved right to the top of my favourites.
Two things that work SO well in this book are the old magic and the child narration. I’m just now noticing, oddly, that the narrator is never identified by name. I read in the acknowledgments that most of the settings resemble the author’s childhood, so maybe his name is Neil 😛
The narrator is such a likeable child and his quote “I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else” reminds me so much of my own childhood.
I just loved the Hempstocks, who I take it represent the maiden, mother, and crone. It was exceptionally magical when our clever little narrator asks Lettie “How long have you been eleven for?” – even if it made me cringe thinking of Twilight lol
So many aspects of the Hempstocks magic were just so heartwarming; the way they could sense people approaching their farm and how endless worlds seemed connected its borders, the random trinkets used to bind Ursula, the fairy ring, and of course the ocean at the end of the lane 😉
Whilst the ending upset me, it was fitting. I especially loved the way our narrator returns to the farm every so often to visit Lettie. I also have a suspicion that Lettie had something to do with the fact none of the narrators love interests lasted.
This is book #2 for All The Short Ones Readathon