The book starts with the narrator telling of his return to the village where he grew up. The narrator’s name is never revealed (unless I missed it somewhere). Most of the book is a recollection of his childhood, stories about his sister, a girl named Lettie Hempstock and the supernatural events that intersect their lives. Lettie claims the pond behind her home is actually an ocean, a portal for mystical beings to enter our world.
I didn’t know this book had a supernatural theme when I started reading it so, was taken by surprise at the turn of events when it got…well, freaky. I found it interesting and it certainly kept my attention all the way through.
The adult narrator begins the story when he arrives at his former home, visiting for a funeral, but never states whose funeral it is that brought him back. He is drawn to the Hempstock farm where there once lived three magical women. He inquires about his friend Lettie. As he sits near the pond he starts recalling his boyhood years and how Lettie was his friend.
Slipping into an earlier time period you don’t even notice the transition. You are now reading about a boy who comes home and finds an opal miner, a boarder who will take over the boy’s room. The opal miner has accidently run over the boy’s cat and replaces it with another. The cat is completely different from the boy’s previous cat and sits and looks at everyone with hate. The miner then steals the father’s car and commits suicide in the back. Somehow his death allows a supernatural being to enter our world.
This mystical “creature” takes the form of a very lovely young woman named Ursula Monkton. Ursula is hired to look after narrator and his little sister. But Ursula, being a monster in human form, alienates the boy/narrator from his family, keeping them spellbound somehow.
As I read back over my retelling of key points in the book, it doesn’t seem to make sense, yet I followed along in this bizarre journey rooting for the balance of good over evil forces in our universe. Clear as mud, right?
I enjoyed the book but I can’t explain the outcomes or it would ruin the ending.
“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.”
Food was mentioned a bit…..some of it made me quite hungry.
She gave me a china bowl filled with warm porridge from the stovetop, with a lump of homemade blackberry jam, my favorite, in the middle of the porridge, then she poured cream on it. I swished it around with my spoon before I ate it, swirling it into a purple mess.
“Whatever’s happening,” she said eventually, “it can all be sorted out.” She saw the expression on my face…….”after pancakes.” Lettie cooked us pancakes on a big metal griddle, on the kitchen stove. They were paper thin and as each pancake was done Lettie would squeeze lemon onto it and plop a blob plum jam into the center, and roll it tightly, like a cigar.
“A strong cup of Builders Tea.” The father mentioned you could stand a spoon up in this tea it was so strong. I would like to try it soon.
“Just try a little nibble. It’s your favorite. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes and gravy. You love them.”
“Dinner was wonderful. Old Mrs. Hempstock took out a joint of beef, roast potatoes, golden crisp on the outside and soft and white on the inside, buttered greens, roasted carrots all blackened and sweet. For dessert there was a pie stuffed with apples and swollen raisins and crushed nuts, all topped with a thick yellow custard, creamier and richer than anything.”
“We picked some pea pods, opened them and ate the peas inside. Peas baffled me. I could not understand why grownups would take things that tasted so good when they were freshly picked and raw, and put them in tins cans and make them revolting.”
“My father came home and dinner was served. A thick vegetable soup, then roast chicken and new potatoes with frozen peas. I loved all of the things on the table. I did not eat any of it.”
Thick soup and stew had us wishing for a good hot bowl of the same. We have had lots of rain and so, soup is a perfect warming treat for the tummy.
Neil Gaiman’s website In 2013, it was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.
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