The Ocean at the End of the Lane kicks off my 2022 ‘read’ list. Just as well, since it’s been on my TBR since April 2015. So it’s also my first entry on the Alphabet Soup and my Mount TBR reading challenges for 2022–and my Goodreads Challenge for that matter. Good to start the year with a 5 star read!
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
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. (goodreads)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane starts with a man driving away from a funeral, not ready to join the rest of the guests at the wake. In the sort of retrospection that captures some of us after funerals, he journeys back in time, and becomes the seven year old boy he used to be.
I have never been a seven year old boy. But I can easily be this chap, adventures with possessed parents aside. The strange events he relives, or is it just the memory, are almost something I have dreamed or imagined. But not in the fear and dread that Mr Gaiman conjures up for our entertainment, delight, and cringing mystery.
I wondered whether you could call this magical realism. The world is very real, except when the magic crosses into it. So inventive, so visceral. The horror within is mild enough for children – save when the real world enters with suicide and things seen through curtains that shouldn’t be mentioned in children’s books. The Hempstocks are superb, and the world or universe they inhabit is beyond beautiful, and terrible.
The author kindly finishes with a discussion in the acknowledgements about books about seven-year olds for adults, and books for children about adults. I wasn’t sure where to put it, but it had better stay off the MG shelf!
In all, a wondrous, beautiful, and scary start to the new year. I think I want to read it again. No higher praise than that.Book Review | The Ocean at the End of the Lane 'I want to read it again. No higher praise than that.' Wondrous, scary, beautiful. #fantasy #neilgaiman Click To Tweet