Prolific fantasy and graphic novel author Neil Gaiman has penned another hit with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Once again his wit and imagination capture the reader early and don’t let go until the very end.
Gaiman tells the story in first person from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old boy. We never learn the boy’s name, but we certainly know him by the end of the book. One of Gaiman’s best attributes is his ability to tell a story from the viewpoint of a child and make us believe.
This is not an easy task since he must be able to tell us things a seven-year-old wouldn’t understand such as the father being physically intimate with the nanny. The child doesn’t comprehend what they are doing, but he is sure it can’t be right.
Gaimen accomplishes this by first introducing the character as an adult. The protagonist has returned home to attend a funeral. We’re never told whose funeral. It doesn’t matter to the story. It’s just what brought him back to the lane.
The funeral is over, and before the post-funeral event begins; the protagonist goes for a drive past his childhood home and down the lane. He slowly remembers what happened at the end of the lane on the Hempstock farm. He also remembers his friend Lettie Hempstock, and what she gave up for him.
Lettie is about 12, five years older than the main character. She is much more knowledgeable than might be expected and soon has him wondering if she is more than she appears. He soon learns that Lettie is a very old entity who looks like a preadolescent. Strange things happen on the Hempstock farm, and one of them follows the protagonist home.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane contains lots of magic, a few monsters, and death. Lettie and her maternal ancestors have special powers, but they’re not witches. To paraphrase her, witches use spells, but her family uses recipes. Their farm sits on a rift between earth and somewhere else. A monster has found its way across. Since the children let it in, they must take it out.
This is a young adult novel that also entertains adults. It has some mature content such as death and sex — however, much less graphic than many television prime time programs. Gaiman’s books always contain humor, and the The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no different. Even when things look bleak, the characters don’t take the danger seriously. It’s a mere 178 pages, and a quick read.
Gaiman’s publications include fantasy, science fiction, comics, screen productions and graphic novels. He has won too many awards to list them here, but they include Nebula, Hugo, Locus and Bram Stoker. His first novel, Good Omens was published in 1990 and co-wrote with Terry Pratchett. Some of his other titles include American Gods, Stardust, Anansi Boys, and The Graveyard Book.Powered by Sidelines