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Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane: Book Review

When I read the summary of the book from it's back cover (as I was doing some book 'window' shopping) and I honestly did not know what to expect from the story. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I was thrown into a thrilling adventure of a mysterious world existing within our own.

The story begins with a mundane middle aged man as he makes his way through his childhood home. There is nothing special about this man, he is just like any other adult, dealing with the same problems and concerns that we all do; like "marriage (failed a decade ago, a relationship that had slowly frayed until eventually, as they always seem to, it broke), dating (I wasn't; I was not even sure that I could, not yet), children (all grown up, they have their own lives), work (doing fine, thank you)." 

But beneath this seemingly ordinary man lies a great adventure that chills me to the bone just thinking about it. The unnamed narrator visits a farmhouse he used to visit when he was a child, it is in this farmhouse where he met a young girl Lettie, her mother and grandmother. He goes to the pond at the back of the farmhouse and memories of a forgotten adventure start coming back to him. 

I just love the tattered and ripped details that the pages of the book had. 

It all starts when an opal miner (that rents a room) in the then young boy's home (he is seven years old at this time) commits suicide in his father's car after gambling away all his friends' money. Because of this suicide, a being from another world makes its way into our and starts giving money to people -it's not as fun as it sounds especially when you wake up choking on a coin. 

Our seven-year old protagonist then seeks out the help of Lettie Hempstock (the girl he met in the farm) and her mother and grandmother. 

Lettie takes the boy with her to bind the spirit that is causing all the trouble, Lettie (who appears to be eleven years old) instructs the boy to never let go of her hand. When they confront the 'being'/'spirit' the boy lets go of Lettie's hand for a moment-in surprise and this is when he feels a pain in his foot. 

After vanquishing the spirit, the boy goes home and discovers that there is a hole in the sole of his foot where a worm has lodged itself in. He is able to remove the worm but a part is left inside him. 

The next day, his mother introduces him to Ursula Monkton who is going to look after him and his sister. While the whole family adores Ursula, the narrator of the story doesn't and this is because Ursula is actually the worm that was in his foot and is the same 'spirit' that he and Lettie supposedly bound. Ursula was able to make her way to this world through the boy. 

From here, the boy and Lettie have to send Ursula back from where she came from to stop her and in the process make the greatest sacrifice.   

Just goes to show that you don't need a book to have 500 pages for it to be good. Neil Gaiman's 181 page The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is a perfect example of that. 

It was soo good and I couldn't put it down and was even my companion in the hospital when I strained my shoulder and neck from band practice and had to go to the ER to be shot up with some pain meds :P 

I couldn't put down the book and finished it in a day! My heart is still all a flutter at the thrilling and oftentimes chilling adventures of a little boy. Reading this book had me thinking that maybe we all had great adventures as children but we just grew up, became boring adults and forgot. 

While reading the book I found myself thinking that this would really make a good movie and I am absolutely thrilled that Focus Features already acquired rights to the film with Tom Hanks producing and Joe Wright at the helm as director. 

At the back of the book is a line that read: "A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark," and I totally agree! For me this line describes the book very well for the images that came to my mind's eye while reading Neil Gaiman's novel were both beautiful and frightening at the same time. (More reasons for a movie adaptation!) 

While there were lots of themes in the book, one of the things that struck me the most was the one about sacrifice and the realization that we have to make the most of what we have and what was given to us. Oftentimes we don't know and realize that we owe our very existence to somebody's sacrifice, it may be a special friend like Lettie or it could be our own parents and family. Whoever or whatever we may owe our existence to, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane calls us to be the best of who we are and what we can be and to make extraordinary what is ordinary. 

By Ica Cheng

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