Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author/Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Publication Year: 2013
Pages: 208 (audio length: 5 hours 48 minutes)
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com
From the cover:
Sussex, England: A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet sitting by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean), the unremembered past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie – magical, comforting, wise beyond her years – promised to protect him, no matter what.
It took me a bit to get into this book. Maybe it was the frame story – the narrator looking back on his childhood from adulthood – but I just didn’t love it right from the beginning. Once it got into the main story, though, the story of the man’s childhood, I felt like Gaiman really came into his own.
The best thing about The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the sense of magic and imagination weaving through everything. I also liked the frank look at the narrator’s opinion of his relationship with his family – the way he interacts with his sister, and his love and, later, disdain towards his father.
Throughout the book, the Hempstock family is a source of happiness, magic, and confusion for the narrator. In particular, Lettie – the youngest – becomes the friend and protector of the narrator, and the one who exposes him to the world of wonder and magic that can happen in their lives. She’s also how he gets exposed to the bad evil that forms the main conflict of the story, but that’s just part of the fun.
It wasn’t my favourite Gaiman book, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane is still an entertaining, magical read.