Friday, September 13, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

Summary: 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.
Summary and cover art from

My Review: A middle-aged artist, who remains anonymous throughout the story, returns to his childhood home town to attend a funeral. On his way to the reception he makes a detour and finds himself at the home of a childhood neighbor. Here memories from his past begin to vividly boil up. His mind takes him back to his bookish loner self at seven-years-old. This was the year a man committed suicide at the end of his lane. This death stirs up a string of peculiar events beginning with the release of an evil spirit that threatens to destroy the boy and his family. His survival depends on the immortals down the road, who were posing as normal neighbors. As his erased memories are recollected the man realizes that things are not quite as they have seemed, and yet they are exactly as he knew them to be.

At a mere 178 pages this short novel packs a big punch. Gaiman does a remarkable job of developing both the characters and the setting in these few pages. It is story easily devoured in one sitting and feels a bit reminiscent of riding a roller coaster. Utterly horrifying passages full of nail-biting suspense are interspersed between short lulls of lyrical magic. Just when the ride seems to be over a final twist is thrown in as the book comes to a tranquil conclusion.

Though the protagonist is young and the book is short this most certainly is a tale for adults. It contains all the fantastical weirdness expected from a Gaiman work, and is perhaps even darker and stranger than his other stories. Yet it works in this wondrous way, leaving plenty to ponder over after closing the cover.

My Rating: 5 stars

To sum it up: Eerie, magical, and all consuming. An enjoyable manner in which to pass a few hours.

If my review doesn't convince you to give this one a try perhaps this NPR interview with Neil Gaiman will.


Meredith said...

Just put this book on hold. I can't wait to read it and see how it turns out!

JoanneMarie Faust said...

That book was way too short. I read it a few weeks ago and I'm still hoping that Lettie is going to be okay!

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Loved it.


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