The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
Expected Publishing Date: June 18, 2013
Length: 181 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
Format Read In: Library book
View at the Traffic light:
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.
This is only my second Neil Gaiman book, and it might be strange to say, but I think I enjoy having just finished a Gaiman book than actually reading it. Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy reading his books, but there’s something, at least in my limited experience, about closing one of his books and sort of reflecting over the story.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a tightly crafted story–not a word out of place, and as such, it makes for an incredibly quick read that draws you in. I think one of Gaiman’s strengths in this book is that the main character is so character-less, almost–he’s really just a spectator to the real story, and yet I loved it anyway. That takes talent, and it flies in the face of all convention that a main character should be interesting or memorable. The boy in this book is not special or memorable, but his reflection on events is.
There are some quite gross and disturbing scenes in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and yet, everything seems sort of magical anyway. The fairy-tale like story grew on me the entire time, even while creeping me out a bit. There’s a bit of darkness here, to be sure. But also magic and fantasy and everything that makes me love stories so much in the first place.
It’s hard to review this one, and this review is going to be short, but I can’t help but to go back to how I felt immediately upon finishing this book–sort of like I had taken a trip back to my own childhood, just by reading this story, which was nothing like my own. But I felt Gaiman really captured that feeling in it’s entirety–both the ethereal quality and the darkness of it.
Final Impression: Perhaps not a review in the original sense, my thoughts on The Ocean at the End of the Lane are sort of a wonderful jumble as I try to sort it all out. Just know that I found this story to be “classic Neil Gaiman”, as much as I can understand it, having read so little of his previous work. 4/5 cupcakes.