Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Source: Purchased (Hardcover)
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. 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.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
This book was definitely not what I was expecting. But then, when it comes to Neil Gaiman, do we ever really know what to expect?
Call me crazy, but I thought this was going to be an ordinary, contemporary novel. Yes, I’m crazy. Instead, I got a sweeping story about a boy and his friend, a really gross worm, an odd family on a farm, and an ocean that looks like a pond.
“As we age, we become our parents; live long enough and we see faces repeat in time.”
Honestly, when I finished reading this story, I knew it had been a gooder. It had made me squirm, it made me swoon (mainly over Neil’s gorgeous writing), and it had me wondering what was going on. There was a hint of witchcraft going on throughout the story and I kept wondering if it was intentional or if it was just the thing to come out of a young 7-year-old boy’s imagination.
Of course, even with the fantastical elements, there’s a lot of serious stuff going on. At times, the story reads like any of Neil’s books for younger audiences (I saw hints of Coraline at times with Ursula), but then there are very adult, very dark things that happen. Really, it’s a book that could use a second reading to really take in everything, to make sure that it’s all understood. With its unique blend of fairytale and altered memories, a reader is left to wonder what was real and what was not?
In the end, Neil still remains to be one of my favourite authors. I will admit that I haven’t dove into his adult books as readily as I should, but I know I will change that in the future. His books may be slightly twisted and dark, but they’re still so rewarding to read.