The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at The End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman cover

Though short, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is a fantastic novel. I’ll admit that the book didn’t necessarily hook me from the beginning, but as I continued to press on, the tale started to unfold in a way that I never would have expected; further exemplifying the brilliance of Neil Gaiman. The book is told from the point of view of an unnamed character, who from the first page is attending a funeral. This becomes important near the very end of the book, but I won’t tell you why. At any rate, the real meat of the story begins in the second chapter where there is a regression of the character to seven years of age. It is awfully odd not having a real name for the main character, but as I kept reading, I found that I did not mind this so much, as the prose kept in the vein of an almost firsthand account of these strange events that it almost felt natural. As for those events, they seem to revolve around an old farmhouse and a peculiar little girl by the name of Lettie Hempstock. Gaiman has always been one to suggest that his characters are something more and seems to be a fan of the ancient tale where a god or king would dress as a peasant in order to mix amongst the people and be unnoticed. I can’t really tell you who Lettie is, exactly; but I will tell you that she does some rather extravagant things for a young girl her age. There is definitely no shortage of magic in this book, as the entire Hempstock family seems to be something of otherworld travelers; though if I opened my mouth any more, I daresay that I would spoil the surprise.

So how then do I review a novel of this type, which is so short that mentioning one too many details would ruin the entire reading experience? I will say that our main character travels with Lettie into another world, “the ocean” and they wind up chasing something that later makes contact with their world in a way that reminded me of Stephen King’s IT in all honesty. You’ve got this thing, who’s well older than time and it is able to take the image of anything it wants, even a babysitter – a charming and beautiful young woman who is able to convince the character’s father to be unfaithful to his own wife, while in the meantime causing him to nearly kill our main character by drowning him in the bath. But she also has “friends” who live in the attic, where she’d very much like him to be – a place where her friends can turn into all sorts of horrors, like spiders as big as dogs, for example. The fact of the matter is, that this thing; this “flea” latched onto our character and made a return hole in his foot, as disgusting as that might sound. If I told you anymore about that, I’d be giving too much away. Folks, this book is only 178 pages long, so there’s not a very long tale to tell – and so much to accidentally spoil. If I can say anything else, I’ll say that the book leaves you entranced, horrified and mesmerized all of the way up to it’s conclusion; which love or hate, is the way that Neil Gaiman wanted it to end. It leaves you, like most of his other books, wondering about the characters and the story long after you’ve put it down. This is what makes Gaiman’s work such a treasure to literature, as you can always count on a memorable tale that doesn’t reek of the same literary toolset which is all too common in American literature. Without further filling the page with words, I do recommend that you pick up Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, because it’s an original story full of magic and terror that only Gaiman can tell; and that you’ll never forget.

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