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.
I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend, and I wasn’t disappointed. This book was the perfect mix between magical and reality, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. It was the best of both worlds, a grownup and a child, it was well written and well done.
The character of Lettie Hempstock has to be one of my favourites, the way that she is remembered by the narrator is one of the best things about the book. She is a strong and humorous character, but her story and family is what makes her a favourite, the way she is independent and not phased by the death at the end of the road. She takes control and places her trust in someone who has no idea what to think. She is a refreshing character and it made a huge amount of difference to have her as a constant throughout the otherwise confusing story.
The imagery and the writing are so rich, and the story is just as good. The fantasy element enriches the environment and leaves you breathless and a little left behind. I love the use of the lake and the fact that you as an adult dismiss it as just a child’s imagination, when in fact it becomes so much more. There is just so much to say about this book, and the way that the words form such a barrier to the real world.
I think what makes this book so fantastic is the fact that the story is so incoherent, when I was reading it there, were many moments of sitting there wondering what the heck was going on, but still being completely engrossed in the story. Which for me, is an impressive feat. The fact that the book shows something that is rarely remembered as we grow up, is another reason why this book will be one that I will continue to re-read. It shows that as adults we forget that the majority of our childhood was spent in a fantasy world, and that just because we grow up and forget doesn’t make it any less real.
[This is going to be a new part of my reviews where I share some of my favourite spoiler-free quotes with you guys]
“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”
“Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”
“Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.”