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 Lane is 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.
Neil Gaiman’s novel, The Ocean at The End of The Lane has been in my Kindle queue for a year, waiting for me to dive in. Finally, I sat down, read the first sentence, and continued until I finished. I enjoyed this magical tale of a young boy and his magical friend Lettie Hempstock. Mr. Gaiman’s novel touted a FAIRYTALE FOR ADULTS would be enjoyed by anyone of any age. The story borders REALITY and FANTASY, MAGICAL REALISM where the fantastical happens in ordinary circumstances.
In this case the ordinary life of a seven-year-old, unnamed boy who loves books, kittens, and LEWIS CARROLL fairy tales. He tries to make sense of the adult world around him, especially his broken family, strapped for cash, taking in boarders to make ends meet. Thus, the unlucky meeting of a HAPLESS GAMBLER, a harbinger of evil who brings death to their doorstep. The death of the young boy’s kitten run over by the man’s car, and later the man’s death when he commits suicide in the family’s car. It is here reality meets fantasy.
The man’s death releases a MALEVOLENT creature that feeds on the family’s emotional and physical needs. The boy escapes to LETTIE HEMPSTOCK’S farm, a land bordering another world. A place of MAGIC where a POND becomes an all-knowing OCEAN. Scissors snip out bad memories. A woman makes a full moon every evening. A place that borders dangerous, mind and body invading VARMINTS.
The boy ponders the complexities of ADULTHOOD, but Lettie Hempstock doesn’t believe people ever grow up.
Which leaves the boy pondering?
The Hemstocks are a PECULIAR FAMILY OF WOMEN, consisting of Lettie, her mother, and grandmother. There are no men in this household. When the boy asks why Lettie’s grandmother exclaims:
With their powerful magic, the three women can do anything. Just as he’s found comfort in Lewis and Carrol’s fairytales, the boy also finds solace and protection in the woman and Hempstock farm, a place evil cannot trespass.
The adult protagonist dives into his childhood memories, memories of IMPOSSIBLE THINGS. Did they happen? Just as the protagonist, I pondered if his memories were just a dream or a boy’s way of coping with family issues? Or perhaps the all-knowing, all-powerful Hempstock woman as ancient as the big boom truly existed. A struggling family, a MONSTROUS NANNY, a father’s anger and deception, did the Hempstocks provide him security, warmth, and unconditional love he lacked at home?
Mr. Gaiman’s prose flows like an enchanting STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS, continuous like Lettie’s ocean. This short, well-written novel is a FAST READ filled with suspense, TERROR, and, MAGIC. Mr. Gaiman, thank you for the extraordinary read.
I make things up and write them down. Which takes us from comics (like SANDMAN) to novels (like ANANSI BOYS and AMERICAN GODS) to short stories (some are collected in SMOKE AND MIRRORS) and to occasionally movies (like Dave McKean’s MIRRORMASK or the NEVERWHERE TV series, or my own short film A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON). In my spare time I read and sleep and eat and try to keep the blog at http://www.neilgaiman.com more or less up to date.
Neil Richard Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, nonfiction, audio theatre, and films. His works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book(2008). In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.