Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
A man goes back to the village in which he grew up in to attend a funeral. As he drives through the streets of the place he once called home, childhood memories come flooding back to him; he stops at an old farm where a friend of his used to live – a girl called Lettie Hempstock.
They used to play together when he was about seven years old. Lettie is not home, but her mother invites him in and he visits the pond in the backyard. Lettie used to call it an ocean. Sitting by the water, he remembers the day his family’s lodger stole his father’s car and committed suicide in it; an event that somehow awoke ancient powers that would have better been left undisturbed.
From that point onwards, things get progressively more bizarre in Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. As it turns out, Lettie was no ordinary girl and her family is pretty out of this world as well. Her mother can ‘fold time’ and make people forget things ever happened and her grandmother remembers being around for the Big Bang.
Gaiman carefully sets his readers up for what is coming. When the narrating main character discovers an open wound in between his toes, kind of like a hole, the author explores it in a way that lets the reader sense the hole spells trouble – and indeed it does.
There is one fairly big twist in the story – in relation to the aforementioned wound – and aside from that, Gaiman generally tends to give the reader a sense of foreboding. Nevertheless, he manages to keep his audience captivated throughout the novel.
His storytelling is eloquent and descriptive enough to give a good impression of the story’s setting, but also leaves sufficient room for the reader’s own imagination, which – especially in fantasy – is a key factor of a well-written book.
Because the two main characters are children, and the story has strong fantasy elements, The Ocean at the End of the Lane feels like reading a children’s book at times. Curiously, we never learn the name of the little boy that narrates the story or the time it is set in.
As a whole, the latest Gaiman is a thoroughly engaging read. This might well be one of those books that you can’t put down until you’ve finished it. In any case, this book is worth reading twice, because certain things that are revealed in the beginning will get new meaning when you add specific knowledge you gain later in the story.