The Ocean at the End of the Lane

oceanI love Neil Gaiman. I am a big fan of his novels, short stories, comic books, movie and television contributions, and his writing in general. His contribution to nerd/geek culture (you know Who), not to mention the fantasy genre in literature, can hardly be matched. My second favorite book out of the hundreds I’ve read in my lifetime is currently American Gods (a book I have reviewed here). I simply adore the man and would pay to read his grocery list if it became available for Kindle.

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You are all within my power.

That being said, I’m not quite sure what to say about Gaiman’s latest novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The plot of the novel seems simple enough; it’s about a young, ordinary boy put in extraordinary circumstances. However there are so many layers and complex themes it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly the story is trying to convey.

It begins with a man of about middle age returning to the place where he grew up to attend a funeral. He is the very definition of uninteresting: he has a normal job and is divorced from his wife with whom he has three grown up children he doesn’t see much. While in town, he visits the Hempstock farm’s pond, which his childhood friend Lettie had referred to as ‘the ocean’. There he starts to recall many unusual things that had happened to him, things that were painful, things that were magical, all seemingly unreal, but they are real. Even the things he would much rather forget.

Although the focus is mainly on the protagonist, the true stars of the show are the women in the novel. First there is the Hempstock family. There is Old Mrs. Hempstock, a wise old woman who has been around since before time began and will still be around when it ends. She is the most powerful of the Hempstocks. Mrs. Hempstock is a middle-aged woman who lived before the big bang, and will be there for the next one. Lettie Hempstock, daughter of Mrs. Hempstock, has been an eleven-year-old girl since always. She becomes good friends with the protagonist and inadvertently puts him in danger. There’s also Ursula Monkton, the boy and his sister’s new caretaker. Though she is pretty and has a sweet voice, there is something about her that he doesn’t like. She worms her way into the family through less then moral means. Sexy means.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is short (less than 200 pages) and started out as just a short story, and it feels more personal than Gaiman’s other books. It is more like reading someone’s diary than reading a fictional tale. It may be because in this novel Gaiman used many elements from his own childhood home and from his own experiences. The boy learns so many lessons and feels a different range of emotions over a short amount of time. He must overcome guilt, sacrifice, fear, and many other emotions that most people refuse to face into adulthood—and in the end, it may not have been worth it. It felt less like reading a book about adventure, and more about personal growth. The ending isn’t particularly happy, though not exactly sad. It is an ending, that’s all. Despite this, it was still an enjoyable read and I certainly recommend it.

Do you know a book or movie you would like me to review? Post it in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “The Ocean at the End of the Lane

  1. Pingback: Book In A Minute: The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Lynn Reynolds - Author

  2. Pingback: The stages of tragedy: Drak’s story | Write on the World

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