* CONTAIN SPOILERS
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my first Neil Gaiman novel. I have followed his career for years, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t read or seen anything he has written (if you can believe it). I have the impression that so many readers love him, although the reviews appeared mixed for this book. I had a weird scary dream while reading this book that I can’t remember, but it didn’t stop me from devouring the story.
An unnamed man returns to the farm at the end of the lane from his childhood home. He doesn’t know what compelled him to return, but he knocks on the door and speaks to the woman who is a relative of his childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock. The man sits by a pond at the back of the farm and starts to recall when he was seven years old. He remembers how the mysterious death of a boarder led to his meeting Lettie and her family for the first time. How strange, eerie events turned his world upside down shortly afterwards, especially after the arrival of his family’s new housekeeper, Ursula Monkton. How the world almost came to an end and the ultimate sacrifice had to be made to save it.
I didn’t know what magic realism was when I started blogging because it wasn’t its own genre when I was a young bookworm. But I always enjoyed stories where there’s something extraordinary in the ordinary, something magical hidden in everyday life just waiting to be discovered. For this reason, I didn’t hesitate to go down the rabbit hole of this story and become completely absorbed in the idea of other-worldly creatures entering our domain or fairy-like women who protect little boys. I enjoyed experiencing this supernatural story as told by the mature narrator remembering events through the naive and innocent eyes of his seven-year old self. Memory seems to be one of the themes in the story. How remembering can be bittersweet because it’s just as good to forget memories stuffed deep down somewhere, as it is to release them from the dark.
I’m not the kind of reader who needs to know everything about characters or the worlds an author creates (how Chicago became the society of Divergent, for example). I’m quite happy to go along for the ride and work with what I’m given. However, my brain got quite muddled trying to follow the explanations in the book for what the other-worldly creatures were and why they were terrorizing the boy, and how Lettie Hempstock and her fairy kin existed in our world and how a pond could be an ocean. Ultimately, it didn’t make much sense to me at all.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane felt very much like a children’s book masquerading as adult fiction. Some of the content in the story is definitely not appropriate for a younger audience, so I can understand the classification. As much as I enjoyed the story, I guess I was expecting a story about adults in adult situations, but maybe this just proves how inexperienced I am with Neil Gaiman’s work. He is obviously a very talented and imaginative writer, and this book made a very positive impression on me. What book of his should I read next?