Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


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Just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. It was transcendent and exquisite. Each line was written with the precision of a scalpel that cuts to the heart. I unequivocally loved it.

Gaiman’s fist adult novel in years takes his readers directly back to childhood–a time in which monsters and magic are quite real, and where our eyes are open to the world in a way that we can never quite recapture.

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 Laneis 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. [Via Goodreads]

Gaiman’s poignant pen has been turned to many subjects throughout the years, and the dark nature of his subject matter has at once entranced and shocked many. However, Ocean holds the line between the two very well, becoming immediately engaging to the reader, and reminding us all to look closely at what is in front of us, not holding too tightly to reality too early.

Lettie and her family–three generations of women–are all strong, with no need for men (who they care for little more than making more men) and they have existed since the beginning of time. They are calm, careful, and caring, keeping the evil in the world at bay with little more than an afterthought at times. Their family and the confrontation with the narrator’s evil nanny evokes A Wrinkle in Time and Coraline, with a little evil Mary Poppins thrown in for good measure. Furthermore, a very clear Christ-image shines through as salvation comes for the boy in an unexpected manner.

Gaiman proves himself once more to be the literary rock star we all have come to love, and I need to delve deeper into his canon to get my Gaiman fix.

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