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 Laneis 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.
My second journey into the magically enchanting world created by Neil Gaiman, my first was Neverwhere and I have been itching to delve back in ever since.
This time the story follows the recollections of a middle aged man returning to his former home that he, his sister and parents occupied before it was demolished. Something that remains of that past is the small ramshackle cottage situated at the bottom of the lane where our protagonist made friends, at the age of 7, with an 11 year old girl called Lettie Hempstock. Delving into these memories our narrator recollects events unbelievable, haunting and truly magical.
Written from the perspective of a 7 year old boy, one who loves to read and doesn’t fully understand the actions of adults, Gaiman captures the innocence and naivety perfectly and this coupled with some of the experiences makes it hard for the reader not to feel a sense of nostalgia when reading this novel. Gaiman’s enchanting way with words and his whimsical style tell a story that turns the mundane fascinating and the magical all the more memorising and wonderful.
This is a story of one boys revelation that the world where everything is ordinary exists alongside one with an orange sky, filled with monsters and magic and otherworldly beings. The boy is pulled into this world after the suicide of an opal miner who was a lodger at his home. The suicide awakens a being that exhibits powers to manipulate adults through the use of money. It is during this time that the young boy meets Lettie Hempstock, her mother and Grandmother. He is told that the Grandmother witnessed the moon being made and Lettie is adamant that the pond next to her home is actually an ocean, and it becomes quite clear that this family is not what its seems but is friendly and comforting.
One menacing being is able to integrate itself into the family home and using its powers is able to turn his whole family against him and causes his father to do a terrifyingly violent act. The story is also a portrayal of the role of adults in a child’s life and how they are seen, and the sudden realisation that the adults themselves fear things and have their own insecurities and are not much different from their child-selves, beautifully put by Lettie;
“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
This is one tale that will stay with me for a while, enchanting and frightening, touching and nostalgic. A story of friendship, childhood experiences, memories, folklore and unimaginable things that live just outside of our own world, waiting for a way to escape and wreak havoc by unleashing the monsters within ourselves. A true work of genius by Gaiman and added to my favourite novel list.