The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman

Escaping from the social tensions of a funeral gathering, a man (I can’t recall that he’s ever named in the story) takes a rambling drive in the country where he once lived, ending up a the old Hempstock place. While there, he is inundated with deeply-buried memories of some incredible events that happened during his childhood. Memories of the three incredible women who had lived there: Old Mrs. Hempstock, her daughter Ginnie Hempstock, and her eleven-year-old daughter Lettie Hempstock, who had been his friend. Memories of the impossible, unearthly happenings he had been drawn up in. . . . Memories he had forgotten, and would once more forget, so improbable that they are impossible to hold on to.

Wow. When I pick up a Gaiman novel, I expect great things, always. But still, The Ocean at the End of the Lane blew me away. It is definitely Gaiman’s work, but it’s also quite different from what I’ve come to expect from his adult novels. There’s a freshness, a perspective, a haunting beauty to it that captivated me. I think part of that is the wonder of seeing the world through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy, but at the same time through the eyes of the man who had once been that boy. The paths the story takes are also wonderful–there’s enough information given to grasp the events, but it’s something like an impressionistic painting, like the details are a bit blurry and undefined. It works really well and makes the story much more haunting than if everything were spelled out. Also, the Hempstock women–all three of them–are incredible, powerful, kindly people with lots of personality and unplumbed depths. Truly a pleasure to read. Please check out The Ocean at the End of the Lane, whatever your usual taste in literature is; I really doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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