Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Niel Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre(s): Horror, Fantasy, Magical Realism…
Number of pages: 181 pages (paperback)
Price: $8.92 (Amazon paperback)
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.
I went for a walk in my hometown recently and decided to take a look in the new bookstore downtown. The day was so beautiful and the mere idea of reading a book in the park had me itching to buy a new one. After searching the shelves, I came across this novel. It was placed among popular science fiction series such as Game of Thrones and Outlander. I actually hadn’t even heard of the book before and was surprised that when I went the purchase the novel, the cashier was remember of his desire to read this exact novel. He literally said, “I have been meaning to read this one.”
With this novel being narrative through the eyes of a child, much of it’s content reflected childhood imagination. Yet, even in those childhood depictions, there were various moments I was both scared and alarmed. In fact, Gaiman is the same author of Coraline, the child’s movie which had me completely freaked out. The fairytales Gaiman creates in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, have me thankful that I am not a child anymore! I thoroughly thankful that my imagination does not have the same wild craftsmanship of a child. (Although, according to characters in this novel, the falsity of these fairytales are debatable.)
The main character of this novel goes unnamed. His character develops through this storyline as he gains knowledge and the courage to push the boundaries of reality verse fantasy. The character’s innocence and childlike proposition reflects exactly how I would imagine the functioning of a child’s mind and imagination. Even through his naivety, the adult content in the book is very clear, adding to the shock as the plot thickening.
The most incredible thing about this novel is the lesson it conveys. It reminds us that physical appearance does not dictate the appearance of our souls. I think the best quote of the book states this… “Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
I rated this story a 4/5 stars because although I did truly enjoy the read, I was not impressed with the ending. I was left utterly confused. Yet, looking back on it, I think that was relatively the point. As adult was try to understand everything, but some things should be left unknown. Much like the main character in this novel, his questions went unanswered. Or maybe I’m just putting too much thought into it and trying to make myself feel better for not really understanding the entire world created in this book.