The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A man, in town for a funeral, revisits his childhood home and awakens forgotten memories of magic, adventure, and otherworldly power.
Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no exception. A beautiful novel about childhood and growing up to forget, it’s easy to get lost in the fantasy and magical realism of this novel.
Gaiman does an exquisite job of creating a world within a world, where things are not as they appear to be, and in turn creating a new fairytale where adults are bound by limits which children are not, and a bit of the everyday can be the catalyst for so much more.
The narrator, who is reminiscing on his childhood, particularly at age seven, is able to experience something most of us are not: the ability to remember with detail the events of childhood, but also reflect on them as an adult. He remarks about his selfishness and immortality at that age, but isn’t afraid to show his fears and weaknesses as well. He is a child, and the novel paints that innocence and arrogance with a fine brush.
The details of the locations, the smells, the tastes, make it easy for the reader to dive into the world of the book, to see the orangey sky and the ocean-pond, to taste the burnt toast with peanut butter and feel the cool grass in the fairy circle.
To aid in the fantastical elements of the novel, Gaiman has the narrator remind Lettie that the fairy circle and the ocean are just pretend, but the twinkle in her eye hint to both the reader and the narrator that all is not as it seems.
Also, the wordplay and creativity of this novel were fun to read… particularly when it comes to wormholes, which I thought was brilliant.
While the reader is never explicitly told where Lettie and the other Hempstocks come from, the idea that they are from everywhere and nowhere, that they are part of creation, is an interesting one, and invites the reader to explore the world (both real and that in the novel) in a different way, which is exciting and inspiring.
A book which shows there are no ages limits when it comes to stories, to emotions, and to life, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a wonderful read.