The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
If I didn’t already love Neil Gaiman and his beautiful writing after reading American Gods, this book would have solidified his genius for me.
A middle aged man returns to his home town to attend a funeral. While he has an hour to kill, he decides to visit his now demolished childhood home site and while there, he remembers an old farmhouse at the end of the road. For reasons he can’t quite comprehend, he is compelled to go to that old dilapidated farmhouse and sit at bench facing a pond. As he sits, suddenly a flood of previously forgotten memories from 40 years back comes washing over him. He is immediately brought back to the year he was seven and remembers his old childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock, her mother, and her grandmother and the amazing, unbelievable and scary experience that sealed their fate together for a lifetime.
Forty years earlier, a stranger committed suicide in a stollen vehicle at the edge of the farm at the end of the road. His actions set forth a series of actions incomprehensible to a seven year old boy….too scary, too unlivable and too magical for him to fully grasp. All the while, this seven year old boy is immersed into a dangerous and scary world he had no idea even existed…with only his friend, Lettie, and her family and their promise to protect him.
This book is amazing. I know I’ve already said it…but Gaiman’s writing is so beautiful and genius. He writes in a way that perfectly immerses you into the story, actually seeing what he is describing without using overly long and fluffy descriptions. I don’t know how he does what he does, but I’m a huge fan and will definitely be reading the rest of his work.
“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is hard for me to describe or to categorize. It’s definitely a fantasy, adult type fairy tale with an awesome magical realism like nothing I’ve ever read before. On Goodreads, one of the categories it is listed under is “horror” and yeah…I can see that. While the book isn’t overly scary, it’s definitely creepy in parts…especially when I was reading it huddled in my bed in a dark room. But it’s not gory or the kind of creepy that will give you nightmares, so no worries if you usually shy away from books like that.
After finishing this book, I feel like it’s the perfect metaphor for childhood; It’s short, fleeting, enjoyable, magical, scary, confusing and it’s all over before you know it. I found this story utterly enjoyable and completely fascinating. It’s a definite recommend from me. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a quick read (only 178 pages) that deals with dreams, reality, forgotten things and the effect of memory on reality.
“Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.”
My Rating: 4.5 stars