The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Published: June 18th, 2013 by William Morrow Books
Format/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.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a very unique book. At times it feels like a children’s story, but the narrative is punctuated by mature thoughts and insights periodically. I found that the writing style of an adult retelling a childhood memory very pleasant, as it mimicked how I would do the same.
The Ocean is a very short book. Not quite what I would call a novel, but longer than a short story. It made a nice bathtub book. In that short span, Gaiman drew me into the world of the main character, who remains unnamed, as he recalls a childhood memory previously forgotten. I found myself begging for more detail on the Hempstocks and their lives, but was ultimately denied. That is not to say that the book was disappointing. On the contrary, I found it to be the sort that stays with you after it’s done. The kind of story that leaves a hole in you chest, that prompts you to sit and reflect before you continue on with your life.
All in all, I have absolutely no complaints or criticisms. A full twenty-four hours later I am still in the afterglow of this fantastic novel.