I adore Neil Gaiman. I hadn’t read any of his books until early last year, and still haven’t read many of them, but every one I have read has been everything I’d hoped it would be. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the plot of this one. Some of the reviews I read prior to diving in to this book revealed a big part of the story that I wish I had been able to discover myself, so I am going to be careful not to give anything away.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a beautiful story about a man who returns to his childhood home (or where it used to be) and is drawn to the old farmhouse at the end of the lane where he remembers playing as a boy. He finds the house still inhabited by the Hempstock women and begins to recall the strange events that took place when he was seven years old, many years ago. The man’s memories come flooding back to him when he makes his way to the pond near the farmhouse, or what his childhood friend Lettie Hempstock referred to as “her ocean.”
The thing I liked best about this book is how imaginative it was. It was written beautifully and I could picture every event that took place without it seeming too much like a fantasy. While this book is definitely categorized as fantasy, nothing seemed over the top or ridiculous. If I had described the entire plot to you, you would say, “that sounds completely ridiculous,” but The Ocean at the End of the Lane is written in such a way that you are seeing the world through the eyes of a seven year old boy. Even things that don’t seem real can still make complete sense, and sometimes it’s the not making sense that makes them more real. Things just are. A major theme that stood out to me in this book was the mind of a child and how different it is from the mind of an adult. One quote in particular was my absolute favorite:
Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.”
I’m not sure what else to say about this book, but I think that quote really sums it up. It’s a quick read, only 180 pages. I easily could have read it in one sitting had I not had to go to work. If you like fantasy, or if you aren’t sure you like fantasy but are a little intrigued, give it a try.