Beautiful fairytale full of the best kind of English folk magic, the kind that is so endearing and enthralling in the books of Terry Pratchett and Susanna Clarke. I love the Hempstocks, and the everyday magic of women who have everything in hand, and can meet any crisis coolly, and who can make you food that tastes better than any food than you can ever make yourself, and who make everyone else safe.
I loved the main character, whose large inner life hidden in his small real-life presence is something I can identify with, and I see a lot of who I was as a child in him. I would love to be the kind of adult who the child I was would like. I love the character’s small, secret loneliness, a loneliness not based on childhood abuse or social exclusion as in many books, but loneliness simply because it is the human condition to be one, not many, an individual, not a community. We create those things around us that make us feel less lonely, but a child has very little power to create, to shape the world, except in their imagination. I loved his secret, adventurous inner life, his ability to be truly free in books, his ability to draw strength from knowing through those stories that he is not alone. In a world where it is hard for him to make any real connections, the closest he feels to people is through their books. I love the idea that just as the pond on the Hempstock’s farm is in fact an ocean, it just looks like a pond, he is in fact worlds, he just looks like a quiet little boy. The magical depth of the pond and the magical depth of his inner self is such a lovely thematic metaphor.
A lovely one to read to children, should be considered a modern children’s classic.