My first impression of Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is actually a story of suppressed glee and new book anxiety. Ocean is Gaiman’s first adult novel in a number of years and I have yet to be let down by something he has written.
Thankfully, Ocean at the End of the Lane not only met my (high) expectations, it far exceeded them by being a book that was both deeply familiar and entirely new. It is, at its heart, a fairy tale for adults who have forgotten how joyful and dark fairy tales really are.
A middle aged man, while visiting his hometown for a funeral, stumbles upon an old farm at the end of his former street. As he is standing next to the farm’s pond, he suddenly remembers a terrible memory, long forgotten, of a monster who turned his life upside-down and the girl that saved him.
My Favorite Character
There are a lot of interesting, scary, wonderful characters in the book. But none are as fascinating as Lettie Hempstock. She is wise, a bit impulsive, plainspoken, and strong in a way that only girls can be—even if she has been 11 for a very long time.
Lettie is one third of a triad of ageless women who guard the world from the horrible things that would like to move out of our dreams and into our reality. She is instrumental in guiding the small boy she befriends through a familiar world gone strange to a place of peace and resolve.
Words to Live By
“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.” – Mrs. Hempstock
If you have never read Neil Gaiman, this is the book to start with.
His adult novels tend to be witty, dark, violently weird, and twisty. This novel is a bit more gentle, thoughtful, and personal despite the fact that it does not pull punches and has some bleak parts.
It is also a moving read, mostly because it is a tale about growing up and making decisions, right or wrong, about how to be an adult.
I loved this book. It was mature, meditative, and a perfect read for a warm summer evening. It is also something that I am eager to share with my friends.
You can discover Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Bellingham Public Library.