What’s it all about?:
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.
What did I think?:
I really do not know where to start with this book. Disclaimer: I’ve not read too much Neil Gaiman before, in fact I’ve barely begun on my Gaiman journey but I’m starting to believe after reading The Ocean At The End Of The Lane that he is a true master of his craft. It’s a bit odd, a bit quirky, occasionally quite dream-like and vague but if you can deal with all of that and in fact, you enjoy that in your novels, you are in for a wonderful time if you haven’t read this book yet. I found it quite a surreal reading experience in general, but infinitely worth it and now I definitely see what all the fuss is about with Neil Gaiman. I’m just delighted I have so much of his back catalogue to dip into at my leisure, I don’t think I’ve even gone past the tip of the iceberg of what this man can do with his words.
This story opens with a middle-aged man who is going back to his home town to attend a funeral. He deliberately makes a diversion to his childhood home and more specifically, to a very special place in his childhood. This is to his best friend Lettie Hempstock’s childhood home which she shared with her mother and grandmother. He remembers as he sits in her back garden that she told him she had an ocean back there, then all the memories of that occasionally terrifying part of his childhood comes racing back to him. We learn about his struggles at school being bookish and unpopular, his family’s financial difficulties that forced them to take in lodgers and how he met Lettie. The events that follow are precipitated by a suicide in a car near to his home, then followed by venomous strangers, cruelty, monsters that turn out to be real and a dangerous mission to rid the world and protect themselves from a very unwelcome creature.
I’ve only started dipping my toe into the realm of fantasy quite recently and I’m thoroughly enjoying what I’ve discovered so far, particularly Neil Gaiman who creates these magical worlds with fantastical elements that take you right back to your own childhood. I really remembered what it was like to be a child, how I used to make-believe, how little things like a shadow by a door (which actually turned out to be a dressing gown!) could be so terrifying and the beauty and terrors of an over-active imagination. I loved the strong friendship that the author created between Lettie and our male lead, who remains nameless throughout the novel and I just adored the vivacious, strange Lettie who seems like she has been eleven years old forever, and is the boy’s soulmate at a very terrifying, difficult time in his life. I think although this is probably a more adult read, I really believe older teenagers would enjoy this book too, particularly the child narration which is just perfect. For me, it was a nostalgic, adventure-filled and occasionally eerie story that I devoured in no time at all and had a great time whilst doing it!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):