Goodreads Synopsis: Sussex, England. 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, 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.
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.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the first Neil Gaiman novel I have read, and I absolutely loved it. I picked it up randomly in the airport one day because the title appealed to me, and it was a purchase I do not regret at all. I could not put this book down, and when I did, I felt a strange twinge of nostalgia and sadness overcome me. This book is truly beautiful and magical; a story about friendship, growing up, and how experiences shape us. But enough gushing, I think I have made it evident enough that I absolutely adored this book and it immediately made its way to my favourites list. Let’s talk about the story itself.
This book is written in the narrative of a middle-aged man who is reliving his childhood. It begins with our protagonist (who remains unnamed) sitting by a pond that he could never really forget, as it holds the key to the incredible memories he is about to unleash. The pond is constantly referred to as an ocean and throughout the book sets up the in-depth exploration of how things are not always as they seem; and how something so small can be home to something so large and meaningful.
The memory starts with the death of a man down the road that will ignite a series of events that explore the hidden depths of childhood memory and imagination. An evil is unleashed that haunts the young boy as his friend Lettie, an incredible young girl with a mysterious family, attempt to help him. Lettie seems to possess certain abilities that allow her to fend off the evil, and she is wise beyond her age. There is a supernatural element to this story that makes the reader question if what the man is remembering is a true recollection of events, or the wild imagination of a boy who’s mind has concocted this incredible tale to deal with trauma.
The imagery and writing itself is powerful and immersive, and definitely a page-turner. I picked it up in the early afternoon and did not put it down until I finished at night. Some novels told in the point of view of a child can be really hit or miss for me, and this one was definitely a hit. This being my first Gaiman novel, I would say his writing style suited me well and his words flowed easily.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone reading this review. I cannot adequately express the emotions it evoked in me, just say that the story really resonated with me and left me feeling dazed and empty when I put it down. I look forward to reading more of Neil Gaiman’s work and probably re-reading this novel at a future date.
I would give this book a 5/5 and would suggest it to readers of any genre.