The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
It’s pretty, although it looks more like “generic middle-aged ladies’ book club book” or “depressing teen novel about anorexia/death” than “Neil Gaiman book” to me. The British edition seems more Gaimanesque to me, and includes more story elements.
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
For every possible reason, yes.
Neil Gaiman! That should really be all you need to know to give this book a try. I’ve been a Gaiman fan for years, because he has this way of explaining the world (usually through fantastic language/fantasy situations) that makes so much sense. Even when I’ve finished the book and realized that it’s not real, I still feel, gut-deep, that he’s hit upon the true reason for (fill-in-the-blank). And his writing style is deeply present here: matter-of-fact and fantastical all at the same time.
Nostalgia for Childhood. Look, I don’t really want to say what this book is about, because it’s about Capital-L Life. But one of the things it touches on is that proverb, “you can’t go home again”. Or rather, you can, but not to stay.
Children’s Magical Adventures! Unlike with Narnia or even Gaiman’s Coraline, Ocean is about the adult looking back on the childhood adventures. It’s necessarily more somber, more thoughtful.
I won’t say this is my favorite Gaiman, because I don’t know that I’ll reread it as many times (maybe when I’m older?), but…it’s short and dense, with no wasted word, so when it hit my heart, it hit hard. Gaiman has evoked the recalling of childhood so effectively that I found myself remembering scenes from my childhood as I read, even though they had nothing to do with the action of the book. Not that the specific action in the book is the most significant thing. I’m sure that someday, a literature professor will draw deep meaning from what Lettie did at x specific moment, but I’m sure they’ll be missing the point. What is the point? I think it’s more about the journey and the experience than a conclusion. Just read it!
Bought it first day out!