by Val Tobin
Agents and editors will often decide whether a book is for them by reading the first page of a manuscript. Many readers also decide to buy a book based on that critical first-page sample. Each month I’ll post the first page of a book and you’ll vote on whether or not you’d read the book based on the sample.
After you vote, I’ll let you know the title of the book, my reaction to the sample, and why I’d keep reading or why I’d put it down. The goal is to have fun while we explore the beginnings of a variety of books and what compels readers to keep reading.
While I won’t divulge the title or author until you’ve read the piece, I will include the genre and any preliminary items (for example, quotes) you’d see when opening the book on your own.
“I remember my own childhood vividly … I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.”
MAURICE SENDAK, IN CONVERSATION WITH ART SPEIGELMAN,
THE NEW YORKER, SEPTEMBER 27, 1993
It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn’t very big.
Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly. She said they’d come here across the ocean from the old country.
Her mother said that Lettie didn’t remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk.
Old Mrs. Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, said they were both wrong, and that the place that had sunk wasn’t the really old country. She said she could remember the really old country.
She said the really old country had blown up.…
Would you turn the page? Vote now.
Today’s Book Revealed
Today’s book is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
Blurb from Amazon
“A novel about the truths—some wonderful, some terrible—that children know and adults do not.” —Time Magazine
“They say you cannot go home again, and that is as true as a knife . . .”
A man returns to the site of his childhood home where, years before, he knew a girl named Lettie Hempstock who showed him the most marvelous, dangerous, and outrageous things, but when he gets there he learns that nothing is as he remembered.
Wondrous, imaginative, impossible, and at times deeply scary, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is classic Neil Gaiman and has captured the hearts of readers everywhere.
Would I Turn the Page?
Yes. This is just the kind of weirdness that captures my imagination and makes me turn the page. I loved the Maurice Sendak quote, and the writing style invites me in and compels me to keep reading.
A prologue followed the excerpt and then the story started, but I took the above as the first page of the book. So while it’s brief, it gives a reasonable sample of the writing.
I enjoyed this story and fell in love with the characters. It reminded me of when I first read Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a child. I experienced the same sense of awe and strangeness from this story that I felt when I first read those.
This was the first book by Neil Gaiman that I read, and I look forward to reading more, especially since any television shows I’ve watched that had his name attached were well done.
What do you think?
Does this passage from The Ocean at the End of the Lane intrigue you? Does it make you want to turn the page and continue reading? Will you run out now and buy the book? Borrow it?
Val Tobin writes speculative fiction and searches the world over for the perfect butter tart. Her home is in Newmarket, Ontario, where she enjoys writing, reading, and talking about writing and reading.