The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is mysterious, odd, mesmerizing, mystical, terrifying, and refreshing all at once. I received a copy of this book as a Christmas gift several years ago. Back then I read it in one sitting, and I would have today if it were not for adult responsibilities. It is a short read, but do not let its shortness lead you to believe it lacks substance. Gaiman packs more substance in less than 200 pages than many authors can in two or three times that length.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about a middle-aged man, attempting to recall mysterious events that occurred forty years ago, when he was just seven years old. There’s the death of his kitten, a suicide, and mystical but all-too-real creatures and so much more. He finds safety in the home of the mysterious Hempstock women, especially eleven-year-old Lettie. An attempt to send unseen forces back to where they came from results in what can only be described as horrific, terrifying, and utterly evil. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminds you what it is like to be a child, especially a child who thinks he is all alone in the world.
It is difficult to describe The Ocean at the End of the Lane without completely giving it all away. It is both spell-binding and confusing, captivating and odd. While reading, you never truly know exactly what is going on, but you somehow want to keep reading, want to see what happens next. Two things especially stand out to me about The Ocean at the End of the Lane: first, that the boy, the main character, goes completely nameless throughout the entire book; and second, that you never notice until you try to talk about the book. I view this as 100% intentional and as a way to even further immerse the reader into the story. It is narrated in first person and a reader could easily find themselves feeling as if the story is happening to them.
If you read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, know that it is going to be fantastical, utterly terrifying, and just plain odd. But odd does not have to mean bad, and I think it makes this book even more incredible. Gaiman does an incredible job of portraying the utter, raw feelings of what it is like to be a seven year old boy whose world is quickly turning completely upside down on him.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman gets 5/5 stars.