Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Reading wise, the beginning of 2015 has been rough. I gave up on almost every book I
picked up. The only book I did manage to finish reading was Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter, simply because it was so trashy. It was such a pointless read that I didn’t even have the heart to review it here. After many unsuccessful attempts at finding a book that would sustain my attention, I thought of reading Neil Gaiman again. I enjoyed his American Gods last year; but his new book of short stories wasn’t available at the college libraries, so I decided to get The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This short, fairy-tale-sque book was what I needed to end my bad run!

Ocean is about a nameless narrator growing up in the English countryside, with a fairly idyllic, if lonely life. The narrator is young, only seven, and has no friends except his books. He doesn’t even get along with his own sister. An unlikely death introduces him to Lettie Hempstock, a neighboring girl, a few years older than him, who befriends him and takes him under her wing. Lettie lives with her mother and grandmother in a farmhouse that is always warm and has an abundance of food. The farm has a pond that Lettie calls her ocean. And that’s the least strange thing about Lettie and the other Hempstock women. Because Lettie takes such a liking for the narrator, she takes him on an errand with her, and due to his inexperience, he ends up bringing back something with him that’s unwanted and dangerous.

The short novel reads like a modern day fairy-tale. The lines between reality and imagination are so blurry that you can choose to believe whatever fits your personality. While the narrator is from a world like our own, Lettie and her family are from someplace else, and yet, they triumph as the nicest, kindest people in the story. Gaiman’s text is poetic and reminiscent of a time we all miss – our days of innocence and faith. Surprisingly, the descriptions of homes, places we think are safe, and foods (even British foods!) are the ones that will transport you to a different world. (I had to make myself a cheese and tomato sandwich just before writing this post!)

For those who haven’t read anything by Gaiman before, this book might be the best way to go.

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