When it was announced that “The Ocean at End of the Lane” will be Gaiman's first novel aimed at adults since 2005 Anansi Boys, I was extremely excited. After all, Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers and it has been so long since he wrote something for me. Selfish, I know, but I can't help myself because despite him being extremely prolific in these last few years, I've been longing for days of American Gods and Neverwhere.
However, after reading it twice in the space of a single week, I would say "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is a mixed experience. First of all, clocking at just 192 pages it is extremely short and, to be honest, at times I've felt that it could've been made even shorter. Secondly, it is not exactly an adult novel. It is something like a young adult story with a few bits that are vaguely disturbing thrown in. Still, if you can (and I definitely could after a while) overcome there obstacles, you're in for a treat.
"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" opens up with a never-named narrator in his fifties (who could be but is not Gaiman) returns to the place where he grew up in rural Sussex. Fresh from a funeral, he is reminiscing about his childhood and as he approaches farmhouse with a duck pond he remembers the magical time when he was just a bookish, lonely seven year old boy. At the time three generations of Hempstock women (grandmother, mother, and daughter) lived on that farm and after the traumatic suicide of a man subletting a room from his parents, our narrator develops friendship with Lettie, 11 year old girl with a pond which is actually an ocean. However, nothing is as it seems and Gaiman soon slips into a surreal story steeped deep into the mythology. Hemstocks are, in fact, something resembling immortal goddesses or guardians and during his first visit to the farm our narrator ends up traveling to another plane of existence with Lettie. Once back on farm, it transpires that they brought back an unknown stowaway with them - an evil presence which takes form of a demonic nanny to our narrator, effectively destroying his family. What follows is an beautiful written struggle between good and evil filled with twists, turns and magical events.
Despite not delivering an adult book that I was expecting, Gaiman's "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is an enchanting, delightful, and above all, heartfelt tale.
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