Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
# pages: 192
Date published: 2013
5-star rating: 5 stars
Would you recommend it: Yes
This was a book I was sad to stop reading. I read the short novel in a few days just to savor the wonderful reading experience. The book was sad and happy and nostalgic and delightful. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a bit more personal and reflective than Neil Gaiman’s other novels, but if you are a Gaiman fan, you will not be disappointed.
An older unnamed narrator returns to his childhood home and visits the Hempstock Farm down the lane, encountering the pond or “ocean” in the backyard. While he is there, he remembers everything from when he was seven years old, when he met Lettie Hempstock, an eleven year old girl who lives with the mysterious Hempstock women down the street. He remembers everything he was not supposed to remember. The seven-year-old narrator discovers the Hempstock Farm is not your mundane dairy farm. It is a land of fantasy, and the Hempstocks are not the average humans – they seem to live longer and have infinite wisdom. As a child, the narrator was an avid reader, which helped him escape the reality of his family and money issues. For him, the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred, and Lettie’s reality is his fantasy. The narrator has a housekeeper-nanny who he dislikes. This housekeeper is terrifying to him, but Lettie views the housekeeper as an evil flea who must be exterminated. The story is about the narrator’s adventure to “exterminate” the housekeeper and about the fantastical events that occur with the Hempstocks and his family that year.
This book is relatable, especially for adults who read a lot as children and could relate to the imagination of the narrator. The fantasy aspect was different, unlike anything I have ever encountered, which made me enjoy the novel more. It was actually quite strange, in a good way though, because it was ambiguous as to whether these events the narrator remembers actually happened. The tale also was really great at characterization. I could recall what it was like to be seven and selfish, yet beginning to realize that everything around me does matter. Some other themes in the story are the difference between children and adults, coping with family problems, and the meaning of friendship from a child’s point of view.
This book captured me from the very beginning, with fluid prose and an intriguing narrator. As the novel introduced new characters, it kept my attention, because I was curious - I always wanted to know more about them. The Ocean was also thought-provoking, and I wondered if I would be able to face what the narrator faced. It made me feel very close to the narrator. I raved about this book to everyone I saw while I was reading it, so I think anyone would enjoy it. This novel is a step into childhood and I already want to read it again.
Review by Colleen Brady, A&S '16