The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Review by Lauren
copy was a gift, but all opinions are still my own
Official Summary: 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 touch paper 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.
Review: This is the first Neil Gaiman novel that I’ve read. I’ve experienced this author through a couple of his graphic novels, but I’d been wanting to read something a bit more complete from him and I was finally able to do so when a friend of mine gave me this book for my graduation. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a strange little book and it’s a bit difficult to talk about when trying to avoid spoilers.
I’d suggest that if you read this book, you go in without much knowledge concerning the actual plot. Forget that and just remember that the book is magical and fascinating, and a little bit horrifying if you place yourself in a child’s shoes. As this is an adult novel, I wouldn’t say it’s terribly scary, but it certainly contains some spooky beings (I won’t say human) that are interesting in their originality.
The story is fascinating as it’s narrated by an older version of a seven year old. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the voice speaking isn’t a seven year old, only the actions presented. At the same time, there were a few things the narrator actually says when he’s seven that seem beyond his age. Personally, I can chalk that up to its fairy tale nature. Everyone seems older, able to understand the world a bit more because of the terrible beings they come across.
For someone who hasn’t read anything by Gaiman, I do think I started at a good place. It might put some people off…as it’s very much an adult fairy-tale in my mind, though populated with child-like nightmares. However, I enjoyed that it was a shorter book and I could take it all in and prepare myself for another novel by Gaiman. Despite it’s shorter page-length, The Ocean at the End of the Lane felt quite full.
I will certainly be back for more from him. The same friend that give me this book gifted me with two books full of short stories by Gaiman (she’s a big fan) so I’ll definitely be checking those out as well.
Make it a Gift
At the heart of this novel is a middle-aged man who suddenly remembers a most extraordinary time in his childhood, and the people that made up the backdrop. In honor of that, I think if you were to gift someone this book…you should also add a Time Capsule, so they can preserve their own memories for future recollection.
The above time capsule comes from Our Sweet Home Alabama on etsy. It’s described as a memory box for a child, but I think anyone could use it. It comes with a lock and key, which is even better for a capsule, since it’s not something you can just flip up and look in. I think this would be a great box to collect letters, photos, and little mementos from a time in your life that you will then open up years later to enjoy: births, weddings, a childhood summer, a year in your life at school, etc.
Visit the etsy shop to find more memory boxes and other fun items!
If you want to find other time capsules (with a specific theme, etc.) then simply search “time capsule” in the etsy search engine! There are many other ideas.