Novel: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman | Goodreads
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Books
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.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the first Neil Gaiman book I’ve ever read. Now, after concluding this beautiful novel, I am sure it won’t be the last. Gaiman has somehow managed to weave the very core and essence of childhood into his writing and the result is a story that will only grow more meaningful with time. Well-written and haunting, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is mysterious, poetic, and lovely. I quite enjoyed it.
I think it’s best to go into this novel ignorant. I didn’t read the plot summary beyond the first two sentences before beginning the novel, so all I knew was the setting (England) and something vague about a funeral. I enjoyed reading the novel blind, rolling with the childlike prose and figuring out (but never really figuring out) the ways of the world with the protagonist. Speaking of protagonists, this one is a seven-year-old boy, who I presume is named George given that his father’s nickname for him as a baby was “Handsome George.” Our narrator takes us through the strange happenings of his seventh year as he remembers them in a flashback. The novel’s feel is poignant and nostalgic, but in a way that neither the narrator nor the reader can fully comprehend. There is always a sense that things are a little blurry, whether it be in the child’s understanding of the world or the reader’s understanding of the story. Whichever the case, it’s clear that Gaiman has intentionally written The Ocean at the End of the Lane to be a subtle, open-ended tale; there’s a dreamlike quality to the story and it can be difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not.
I found The Ocean at the End of the Lane to be a short, beautiful novel. If I could write only one sentence about it, that would be it. It’s just beautiful, in a way that is hard to describe. It’s very much a mood book, so to know what I mean, you must read it. And I recommend reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane because it is short, and beautiful, and I think everyone, even children, can get something out of it.
Thanks for reading.