Review: Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane : A Darkly Disturbing Yet Magical Reminiscence Of Childhood

Author: Sherry Helms

15783514The Ocean at the End of the lane by renowned fantasy author Neil Gaiman is a brilliantly imaginative and moving tale that explores the shadowy spaces of myth, memory, and identity through the otherworldly journey of a man. First adult novel since Gaiman’s bestselling book Anansi Boys released in 2005, it is a captivating tale concerning the baffling gulf between the childhood and adulthood. More specifically, the author incorporated a few events that took place in his own life such as stealing of a car belonging to main character’s father and the thief committed suicide in the car. Debuted at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, this novel will lure you, amaze you, and make you feel on the edge.

The novel is told from the point of view of a middle-aged anonymous narrator returning to the place where he and his sister grew up. Recalled by his adult self, the man revisits his childhood house in Sussex, England where he is suddenly overwhelmed by memories of being seven-year-old boy and powerless, when the lodger stole his father’s car, drove it to the end of the lane and committed suicide in the back seat. This death stirring up ancient powers, chief among them a gorgeous grey-eyed woman named Ursula Monkton, who tried to tempt narrator’s father.

He also remembers a good-hearted young girl named Lettie Hempstock, who lives with her grandmother, Old Mrs. Hempstock, and her mother Ginnie Hempstock on an old farm at the end of the lane. The mysterious eleven-year-old girl- Lettie- introduces him to the pond behind her house, which she deems an ocean. The narrator finds himself entangled in a paranormal conflict by the powerful and dangerous creatures from the outer world that have gathered to destroy his family. A strange set of events are put into motion, and only the Lettie and her family can help set things right again. The narrator returns to the present at the end of novel and stops remembering all the past events. However, the statement of Hempstock shocks him that he had visited this house at least twice during his adult years.

The author has fantastically represented in his novel the helplessness of childhood and the reliance on adults. The fantasy world portrayed by Neil Gaiman is weird but utterly real that will transport you back to your childhood in a way that you feel the same fear and wonder that the protagonist experiences. Though, the novel is written from the perspective of a seven-year-old boy, it isn’t a story for kids as it includes various upsetting images, scenes of nudity and child abuse, and discussions of physical chastisement.

Entirely captivating and perfectly rendered, it’s a short story that explores numerous iconic depictions of childhood memories. The author has an uncanny ability to depict human traits such as the unbreakable bond of Hempstock women together. As this is a fantasy piece, many memories seem unreal, and yet the author infuses the reality and the amorphous dream-like states in a way that will move the reader deeply. The Ocean at the end of the Lane is the best-written book by the storytelling genius Neil Gaiman that is haunting, fascinating, profoundly perceptive as well as lyrical.

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