source: free ARC via the publisher
title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
author: Neil Gaiman
published: June 18th 2013
first line: I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny: clothes that normally would make me feel uncomfortable, as if I were in a stolen uniform, or pretending to be an adult.
rated: 5 out of 5 stars
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.
Reading a Neil Gaiman is like having a magical experience. The imagery he creates and the feelings he evokes while I am reading his stories are what draw me in. He writes beautifully and he makes you almost believe that the fantasy he creates could be reality.
I went into The Ocean at the End of the Lane blindly, I didn’t read the blurb or reviews, I wanted to find out for myself. The unnamed narrator, who later is referred to as “Handsome George” by his father, goes back to his hometown for a funeral. He is an adult now, but when he gets to where his old house used to be he keeps going down the lane to the Hempstock’s farmhouse. As he starts to reminisce he takes us back to when he was just seven years old and his friend Lettie Hempstock lived there with her mother and her grandmother.
As he tells his story we see that the narrator is bookish and he doesn’t have friends aside from Lettie. He lives with his parents and his sister.
“Books were safer than other people anyway.”
p9, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
There is something different about Lettie and her family, they seem older than they appear to be and they seem to hold an ancient wisdom. They just know things, and they have words and a language that only they comprehend. Without giving too much away, one day something sinister makes an appearance and uses the little boy as a gate from this world to another and only Lettie and her family know how to get rid of it. This otherworldly presence beings to wreak havoc on the little boy’s family, without them really knowing it. He is helpless as he witnesses this.
“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I found joy in the things that made me happy.”
p.149, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
As I read I was intrigued and captivated. I wanted the narrator to be alright. He is going through all this danger and his family is unaware but they also do not believe him. The following lines are an example of the imagery Gaiman masterfully creates, it is creepy yet there is something enchanting about his writing. I was easily swept away by the dreamlike quality of the story.
“The dead man in the dinner jacket turned his head slowly, until his face was looking at mine. His eyes were rolled back in his head, and seemed to be staring blindly at the sky above us, like a sleepwalker.”
p132, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
I am trying to read my stack of review books that have arrived via the publishers, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane was on that stack. It came from the publisher as an ARC as did Trigger Warning. I am very happy to have both books on my permanent shelves, sitting next to Stardust and Coraline.
“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.”
p.53, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I received my copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman via the publisher .
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