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.
A groundbreaking work from a master, 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. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable 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 the first Neil Gaiman book I’ve read, although I do have quite a few of his books on my to-read list. So I’m not entirely familiar with his story-telling style and my complaints might fall within the way he does things, but like I said, I’m not sure.
It’s certainly a unique book from anything I’ve read and a highly creative mixture of fantasy, magical realism, and horror. The writing style flows nicely and is easy to visualize for the most part (with the exception of some hard-to-picture kind of things).
Despite the unique world the biggest complaint I have is the lack of world-building. There is a lot of strange packed into this book and I thought it was wonderful! But, I’m a reader that likes to know the whys and the whats. Why is this like that? What are these creatures? Etc, etc. For the most part most things are left up to the reader’s imagination I suppose. Which leaves me asking lots of questions and I’m not sure if I like that feeling or not.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a book that leaves room for interpretation. But, I don’t know, I just wanted more of a back-story I guess. This is really the main reason why this was 3 stars for me instead of 4. The story was really enjoyable and most of the characters were interesting. But in the end I’d like to have had more of wrap-up.
Like I said above, I don’t know if this is just the way Neil Gaiman writes his books, with lots and lots of room left for interpretation. Perhaps if I had known that going into it I would’ve been more open to the idea of not getting all the answers in the end. We’ll have to see once I dive into his other books, which I still fully plan on doing.
That said, I still enjoyed the book and it’s ethereal quality. I have some spoiler-ific theories I’ll share for those who have already read the book:
The biggest mystery to me is who/what the Hempstock’s are. My main theory is that they’re angels and the bad things that come through from the other side are demons coming from hell. But then what was the kitten that the boy/narrator brought back? I also played around with the idea that they are the Trinity. But, I don’t think that really fits because of them saying that there have been others in the Hempstock family. So I’m not sure about that.
Overall this was a really enjoyable book, but just be open to the idea that you might not have all the answers by the end. In some ways this can be fun, especially if you just let yourself go along for the ride without needing to find out all the whys and the whats. I suppose the same goes for life too.