What would you do, if you saw a dead man in your father's car?
What would you do, if strange things happened soon after that?
What would you do, if your next door neighbors turned out to be not the kind of people you were expecting?
And what would you do, if they said their pond was an ocean?
Neil Gaiman's stories have struck me as whimsical, written in beautiful prose that resembles a fairy tale, or even poetry. But then, I was not too fond of Coraline, one of his books targeted for a younger audience. That being said, I loved Stardust, so when I saw the compelling cover as well as the rave reviews, I decided to give his latest books a try.
The beginning was rather slow, but it did hook my attention, so I kept reading. The tale of a young boy encountering many strange creatures was a bit of a surprise, because it definitely was not something I was expecting (although I should have, after reading the blurbs and synopsis about the ocean in a pond).
I was pretty bored as I read about Ursula Monkton and her antics, but because the book was short, I decided to keep reading till I was done with it. I have to admit, what is so charming about this book are the characters. The Hempstocks are wonderfully written, with an air of mystery as well as something comforting that make us feel we've known them personally for years. I love the descriptions about their farm, the clothes they wore and gave to the boy, the food they served him, their strange conversations. Plus, the idea of the ocean in a pond is so clever. I could not have cared less about the journey of the boy, but the characters kept me reading till I reached the bittersweet ending.
The ending was done beautifully. It felt realistic, tinged with a bit of sadness. I wish the story of Universe and other creatures and magic behind it is expanded more, because they are only mentioned in the end, but I guess it'll be an entirely different story altogether.
Side points: The cover with the girl underwater is so breathtaking, although the one with the boy almost drowning represents the story better.