Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Acquired Via: Personal Collection
#1 New York Times Bestseller in hardcover.
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is 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.
You can read Kayla's review of the book HERE.
My Review (Spoilers Below)
An unnamed narrator visits his childhood home and is flooded with magical memories his adult mind can no longer rationalize. Like Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee, the Hempstock women take the narrator under their wing and open his mind to mysterious possibilities. Mrs. Hempstock reads minds. Old Mrs. Hempstock vanquishes evil forces. Eleven-year-old Lettie Hempstock believes the pond in her farm’s backyard is an ocean.
When a man kills himself at the end of the lane, the narrator goes on an adventure with Lettie to eliminate the evil unleashed by the man’s suicide. The narrator ignores Lettie’s explicit instructions and lets go of her hand during their adventure, breaking the bond and allowing an evil creature to sneak into the world with them. That evil creature is the narrator’s new nanny, Ursula Monkton. The narrator’s family loves Ursula and refuses to believe that she is not human. To defeat the monster, Lettie fills a bucket with water from her pond that she insists is an ocean and instructs the narrator to step into it to ward off the story’s final evil. When the narrator’s second foot steps into the bucket, he feels crushed with knowledge. The ocean is beautiful and encompassing. The narrator never wants to leave. It isn’t until Lettie explains that the ocean would destroy him that he agrees to give up that infinite knowledge and come back to reality.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is technically an adult book because the main character is an adult telling the stories he remembers as a child. However, most of the story is told from the seven-year-old’s point of view and the book is a simple, easy read. When I read this book the first time, I have to admit I didn’t love it. I wasn’t swayed by the mastery that so many Gaiman fans swear by. But as I researched this novel for a school essay, I realized the beauty of this story. As the reader, you never really know for sure if the magic is real or not. I read this story at face value, trusting the narrator and believing that the magic he experienced was real (again, like Mary Poppins. Perhaps not explainable, but real enough that he believed in his experiences at the time). However, other readers questioned whether or not these tales were exaggerations of his creative mind. He is seven years old after all. It makes sense that he hates his nanny, especially if she were sleeping with his father. He witnesses a suicide and is forced to give up his bedroom to boarders because his family has no money (another reason he hates the nanny, as she steps into the motherly role when his mother returns to work). After thinking critically about The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I realized the layers of the story were more complex than I originally understood. I earned a deeper respect for the story and its author.
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