This book made me want to go live on a farm with the Hempstock women, where there would be porridge with blackberry jam, honey, and cream, strange-eyed kittens, no electricity in parts of the house, milk fresh from the cows, and a pond that's an ocean. We would bake fresh bread and delicious pies and have fabulous adventures, and they would be terrifying and thrilling all at the same time. I would learn how to do magic-y things, though not spells or cantrips, because those are common and the Hempstock women are anything but. I would probably have to break up with my boyfriend, of course, because men apparently don't hang around the Hempstock place, but I imagine it would probably be worth it. (Shhhh. Don't tell him I said that.)
The thing is, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is a work of beauty, just like everything Neil Gaiman writes. It's not a particularly "adult" book, and the main characters are children, but in that way it manages to deal with ideas that adult books probably can't tackle in quite the same way. Some of those themes are violence, death, loss, and fear. This is a beautiful book in that it add humanity to every aspect. As Lettie says at one point, even monsters are scared of something; that's why they're monsters. Even though I wanted to hate Ursula, and she repelled me, I couldn't help but feel sympathy for her toward the end. She wanted to make everyone else happy so that she could be happy, and she went about it horribly, but... I don't know. Her intentions weren't exactly good, but they weren't bad, either.
Anyway. The book is short, at less than two hundred pages, but it fits a lot into those pages. It also addresses the mysticism of it all in a very good way. It's in the spirit of Neverwhere, but simpler. Having the main character be a child for most of the story (which is all essentially one big flashback) allows a kind of blatant acceptance that is not present in adults. It also allows memory to come into play; memory isn't infallible, after all, so did it all take place the way it's remembered, or did it not? The book did not end the way I expected, but the way it did end was just perfect for it, and I was not disappointed at all. Gaiman continues to be a master storyteller, and this is not one to miss.
5 stars out of 5.