I have not been blogging for long and I must have mentioned Niel Gaiman in my posts at least 10 times by now. I really do believe he is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s as if all of his books have a hypnotizing pull that latches onto you the moment you start reading and his books often give me the worst case of readers hangover.
“Ocean at the end of the lane”, like many of his other works, happens in a world almost like ours but touched by magic.
We met our hero who remains nameless as an adult coming back to his childhood home town for a funeral. He is a more or less well adjusted adult with an older sister and a family to surround him as he griefs. He has not been back in years and even he is not entirely sure why he has not been back. He wanders around town to clear his head and along the way he spots a duck pond. Is it a duck pond though? Or a sea? No, it’s the ocean, little Lettie Hempstock’s ocean. Once he realizes that, the memories rush back…
It all started with his 7th birthday which no one showed up to. It did not bother him much though; he had his new batman action figure and new books to read.
“I lay on the bed and lost myself in the stories.
I liked that, books are safer than people anyway”
His average life slowly takes a turn for the worse as his family’s finances decline and he has to give up his room to a tenant. One of these tenants, a miner, triggers a series of surreal events. Our hero knows he is bad news the moment he arrives and kills his beloved kitten with careless driving.
He soon comes across the the farm and the pond at the end of the road. There are three women living in a house at the end of a lane – Old Mrs Hempstock, Ginnie Hempstock, and Lettie who claims the pond is in fact an ocean, HER ocean.
Triggered by suicide of the miner, an entity starts trying to make people happy by giving them money in most unpleasant ways. When our narrator wakes up choking on a nickel, Lettie knows it’s time to take action. Except things go wrong. Very, very wrong.
Like many of his books, the world Neil Gaiman paints is real and familiar and yet touch by magic. It fills you with a sense of longing. Wishing this story was, at least inspired by true events, that there is some magic and wonder in the world waiting to reveal itself to the most eager seekers. I want my own Lettie to take me by the hand and show me to a whole new world. After reading this book though, I will be sure to not let go of her hand, EVER.
Lettie is the most interesting little girl you wish you could meet. Do not let her appearance fool you though, she is older than the oldest person you know and wiser than any wise man you have ever met. She speaks almost like the child that she appears to be and yet the wisdom of her words have an appeal to an older crowd. The way she speaks is enjoyable for a young reader and delightful for an adult one.
Here is my favorite part of the book and, possibly the best passage I have ever read in any book ever:
“Oh, monsters are scared,” said Lettie.
“That’s whythey’re monsters. And as for grown-ups …”
She stopped talking, rubbed her freckled nose with a finger. Then, “I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups.Not one, in the whole wide world.” She thought for a moment. Then she smiled. “Except for Granny, of course.”
I’m not going to give any more of the story away. It’s a short book to begin with. As an adult it gives you a taste of what it was like to have a child’s sense of wonder and imagination. It’s a reminder to how brave and resilient children can be and defend themselves when their protectors fail them. This book is brilliant and deliciously terrifying. Much like “Coraline”, another one of Mr. Gaiman’s books which was made into a movie in 2009.
I recommend this book especially to people who are not active readers but are trying to become one. The story flows effortlessly as the events unfold at a rather fast yet steady pace. There is just enough suspense to drag the reader along without causing frustration and unnecessarily stretching out the story. It makes for a breezy read and will make you keep coming back for more so you will be more likely to make room for reading!
Now for the book inspired noms…
There is this really endearing part of the story where our narrator meets Lettie for the first time. He is cold, hungry and has seen some things a child should never see. He meets this girl who looks only a few years older than him and yet sounds wiser than any grown up he knows. She takes him inside and serves him some good old-fashioned porridge with fresh cream and homemade blackberry jam. It’s such a sweet moment and while I was never the one to want oatmeal for breakfast found myself craving some of this fictional porridge!
After some research on the topic I came across Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the perfect porridge. I mean British chef recipe for a British writer’s book just feels right. Also…I mean…Jamie Oliver, need I say more?
Alright so here is what the charming Jamie has to say about making the perfect porridge.
- Choose nice oats. Go organic and and choose chunky instead of the flaky quick outs. Will take a little longer but worth the wait.
- The golden ratio for making perfect oats is 1 to 3. Do not add milk or cream as you are cooking them just 3 cups of water for each cup of oats. ( I personally liked my porridge thick, so I used 2.5 cups of water for each cup of oats….sorry Mr. Oliver)
- Add salt. I know breakfast porridge is often consumed sweet but, adding a pinch of salt as it starts to boil will give depth to the flavor.
- Stir, stir, and stir some more! It takes between 10-15 minutes for the oats to cook. If you do not want the oats to go too soft, start sampling after 5 minutes.
Believe it or not, in Scotland they have special pointed porridge spoons. Yes, a whole utensil dedicated to making porridge!
I’m gonna assume almost none of my readers have this. The end of a wooden spoon will do.
If you would like to add a little sugar, use brown sugar and add it after taking the cooked porridge off the stove.
Get creative with the toppings! There are so many tasty choices! Honey, maple syrup, jams and jellies, fresh fruit, poppy seed, flaked almonds….lists goes on.
Traditionally, porridge is served with a few spoonfuls of cream and jam and that’s what we see in the book. Berries are not exactly in season now so I made an apple cinnamon topping. I thinly sliced apples and cook them in butter with brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. For maximum flavor, I stirred a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon into my porridge and topped it with a spoonful of table cream and my apple-cinnamon topper.
After tasting this recipe I will never be able to eat quick oats again and you wont either!
Till next time folks!
Read, Eat, and be Merry!