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

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Number of pages: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: hardcover

Rating: older adults (contains mature subject matter)

Genre: fantasy, mystery, philosophy

Summary:

Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home in Sussex, England. His home is long gone, yet the farm where he met Lettie Hampstock remains. He makes a visit and rediscovers the duck pond that was once called an ocean by Lettie. He hasn’t thought of Lettie for years, and yet when he comes across her ocean, memories of how they met when he was a boy come back to him, unfolding a series of strange and mysterious events beginning with the death of a man who committed suicide. After that moment, a strange darkness is unleashed that terrorizes the boy. And Lettie, with her wisdom and magic, promises to protect him no matter what.

My thoughts:

After reading Stardust I couldn’t wait to read Gaiman’s latest book. This novel gripped my attention from the beginning and I ended up reading it in one sitting. There are books that are good, books that you enjoy, but this book swallows your heart. And as an avid reader, it’s hard to find those books that mesmerize you while leaving a permanent place in your memory. A story combined with myth, memory, and facts about life, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is one of the most thrilling novels I’ve read since Yann Martel’s  Life of Pi.

The women in the story are brilliant. You have the feisty, protective, and clever Lettie Hempstock who, for an 11-year-old girl, is much wiser for her age. Although this raises the question of whether she is truly as young as she says she is. Or perhaps there is more to her and the women of the Hempstock family than it seems. Lettie is both headstrong and kindhearted as she keeps her promise to protect the boy (also the narrator a decade later), and although there have been slip-ups, where the boy acts on his own accord, Lettie is brave enough to stand against any dangers that threatens him. Then there’s Ms. Hempstock, a warm motherly figure who cares for the boy through hard times, and Old Ms. Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother who acts as a mentor for her grandchild and the narrator years later.  With no family and friends to rely on, the Hempstocks are the only ones the boy turns to for advice, protection, and guidance as a mysterious darkness haunts him.

As a boy he’s brave to survive the darkest of moments. He is steadfast and quick-witted, even though his better judgment leads to dire consequences sometimes. But in the end, he’s mature and aware about life’s choices as he learns to get on with his life. And as the narrator leaves the old farm he departs feeling the same way years ago, a memory that feels like an afterimage that for a moment seemed so real, but fades in the past.

A beautiful well-written novel told with a rare understanding about what it is to be human, of memories, and family. To anyone who’s never read Neil Gaiman I highly recommend this book and Stardust. I’m starting to become a huge fan of Gaiman’s writing and I look forward to reading his other works.

I give this book 5 hoots.


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