Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Date of Publication: June 18, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Books
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a haunting and riveting tale of a man who returns home for the funeral of his father. When he’s there, he’s compelled to go to the house at the end of the lane, where the most peculiar girl, Lettie Hempstock, once lived. While he doesn’t remember much about her, the story of what happened when he was a child is revealed through a flashback…
This is novel is like a dark and slightly twisted version of A Wrinkle in Time. There’s a strange magic surrealism to the story from the very beginning, all the way through until it becomes very clear that there’s something supernatural going on. Written from a child’s perspective, Gaiman effectively provides the impression that the world is viewed through a child’s eyes without sacrificing quality of language or the impact of the story.
I absolutely loved the way that Neil Gaiman implemented little asides and anecdotes within the narrative, which served to flesh out the main character and give us insight into his personality through showing and not telling. For example, no one came to his childhood birthday party, and there was a comment about fifteen empty folding chairs. That line and the sheer loneliness of it has stuck with me for weeks after finishing the book.
This is my first non-Sandman graphic novel series Neil Gaiman book, and it did not disappoint. I read other reviews indicating that he’s writing about a theme (growing up) he’s apparently visited and revisited numerous times, as if this is a valid criticism of the quality of the story on its own. While I haven’t read his other books, I do know that this one definitely has literary merit. I might just have to check out these other stories.
My only criticism is that while the protagonist has ample character development, secondary characters aren’t given as much attention. However, this could be an artifact of the nature of seven-year-old boys and how they perceive the world. While he’s fascinated by the mysterious girl who lives at the end of the lane, he doesn’t bother to analyze his family and what they themselves are going through.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a darkly beautiful story of a boy growing up in a world that’s like our own but not quite right. It’s lyrically written, but the plot moves quickly.
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