I was so excited to get a chance to read and review this! I find Neil Gaiman’s work really interesting; even the books I haven’t loved have intrigued me. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is definitely a one-sitting read: once you pick it up, you will be hard-pressed to put it down.
Note to authors: please give your characters names! So hard to talk about a character, think about a character, when you don’t even know what to call him! It makes me think you don’t really know him, either.
In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, our never-named Fellow has just given the eulogy at a funeral in his hometown. Needing to clear his head, he takes a little drive before he meets up with family and old friends, driving randomly…but not. He’s headed down old, familiar roads into the heart of his childhood.
The Hempstock farm is right where it has always been, and Mrs. Hempstock is there as well. The Hempstock women are an enigma, but Ginnie and Lettie and Old Mrs. Hempstock were an important part of The Boy’s childhood – a childhood that just wrenched at my heart from the first memories he shared and never let up. You want to shake his parents, slap his sister and hug the little guy, since no one seems to notice his misery. It was an unexpected reaction for me (well, maybe not slapping his sister – I always wanted to do that to mine), because kids don’t usually draw me in this way.
Gaiman captures childhood better than most authors. The Boy’s confusion, his quiet sadness, his resignation in the face of so many things he can’t control ring so true. I really felt his anger and his terror, and then his guilt, when he says a horrible thing to his father that he cannot take back. And the confusion of The Adult, trying to bring back those childhood memories and make sense of them — that felt familiar as well. Wondering if things really happened the way you remember them, wondering what it all means.
The book is beautifully written. There is a poetry to the language, small passages that make you think, yes, that’s it exactly. It left me with a deep sense of melancholy, on multiple levels. There is so much more I would say about that, but I don’t want to spoil things for new readers. As I said at the beginning of this review, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a one-sitting read. Brew a nice cup of tea and sit here, on the bench next to the pond, and enjoy.
My copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.