A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home. 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.
This lovely exploration of childhood through the eyes of an adult has an almost surreal tone, like a long remembered dream. Gaiman’s beautiful prose, perfected over longer novels like American Gods and Anansi Boys, presents this short, tight narrative so fluidly that you might not notice how quickly everything reads until it’s done. Lettie’s family is just the right kind of unusual to make you question whether this book is really fantasy, and the narrator’s reactions to the Hempstock family’s care is just the sweetest.
A recommendation for anyone who enjoys British literature, modern-ish depictions of witches, or literary explorations of what it means to be a child.
Did I mention that Gaiman is very, very talented at reading his own books?