Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, 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, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
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.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
Four stars: A fantastical journey that takes you back to childhood, when monsters and nightmares are very real.
A middle aged man, returns home for a funeral, but for some inexplicable reason, he finds himself driving to his old childhood home. Upon arriving at his old house, he recalls it was torn down years ago. He gets back and drives down the lane, arriving at the Hempstock farm, where he is greeted by Old Mrs.Hempstock, Lettie's grandmother, but wait, it can't be her, it must be Jenny, Lettie's mother. Then he remember his friend Lettie who was eleven when he was seven, but what happened to Lettie? She went to Australia he thinks, but then as he sits down next to the pond, Lettie's Ocean at the End of the Lane, everything comes back to him with sinking clarity. He falls back into his seven year old self where monsters roamed in the daylight and magic was afoot. Is there really magic and monsters that we outgrow and forget or is all just the product of a vivid childhood imagination?
What I Liked:
- If you have never experienced the wonder of a Neil Gaiman's writing, you are missing out. Gaiman proves once again with this little gem what a fantastic story teller and visionary he is. This is a book that can be labeled so many things, a horror story, a fantasy a coming of age book, a fairy tale, but no matter whatever you call it, this book is deep, wonderful and unforgettable, and the more you ponder on it, the better it becomes.
- The story opens when our narrator a forty something man, whose name is never revealed, returns home for a funeral. He finds himself wandering aimlessly about in his childhood land, until he stumbles back to the Hempstock farm and the Ocean at the End of the Lane. Once he sits down at stares at the pond, he recalls everything that happened to him when he was seven. It is a tale of childhood monsters, nightmares, magic and growth, all bundled into one. It is a story that will have you asking are there things beyond our world that we don't understand? Are monsters real? Do we just forget and outgrow the monsters and magic that populated our childhood as we age? You will end this book left wondering at the possibility, and it will have you pondering over it for days to come.
- Where this book excels is with the writing and story telling. The writing is mesmerizing and wonderful, and it immediately sucks you in. It isn't hard to conjure up images of gray monsters, and Ursula Monkston as well as the devourers. I loved how at times, I was content and cozy, and other times frightened along with the seven year old narrator. This is a book filled with all the nasty creatures that go bump in the night, but never fear for those of you who aren't horror fans, this doesn't delve into being scary or gory. It is a lighter type of horror. Definitely worth the read. If nothing else, read this for the writing. Gaiman is truly a master.
- I loved that this book has somewhat of a dream like quality. We are traversing back through time into a seven year olds memories. Mysteriously, after all the troubling events, he seems to have conveniently forgotten what really happened when the monsters were unleashed upon him. Now as an adult it all comes tumbling back, and then it vanishes again. Leaving you wondering.
- I think the part of the story I loved the most was the Hempstock women. Three ladies, an old grandma, a middle aged mother and young, eleven year old Lettie. All wise beyond their years, magical and mysterious and capable of taking on monsters. I loved these three ladies, and I was completely fascinated by their abilities.
- I listened to the audiobook version which was narrated by Neil Gaiman himself. What a treat to get to listen to the author read his own story. I loved it. If you have the chance, definitely check this out on audiobook.
And The Not So Much:
- If you are a reader who likes a straightforward story where everything is logical, purposeful and makes sense, this is definitely not a book for you. It is a book that is imaginative, different and one that will have you making your own conjectures on what happened. As I mentioned, it has a bit of a dream like quality, and nothing is as it seems. I personally enjoyed falling into this world, but this isn't for everyone.
- This book at times is flat out bizarre and weird and even a bit disturbing. There is nothing logical or cemented in the real world with this novel. I did sometimes find myself floundering around trying to understand it all, but when I let go, it was easier to enjoy. Just go into this one and let the story suck you in.
- I was disappointed that the narrator's family was so weak an unreliable. They were, in a sense, awful people who I could have done without.
- The ending is rather open ended. I was hoping for something regarding Lettie, but alas......
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a different type of a read. This is a simple yet fantastical story about the monsters and nightmares that haunt our childhood. When it is all said and done, Gaiman will have you questioning if as an adult, you conveniently forget the magic and monsters of childhood. A brilliantly written book with fantastic writing that you should check out.
I borrowed a copy of this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.