The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Publication Date: June 18th, 2013
William Morrow Books | Hardcover, 181 pages
Adult Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
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— 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. 

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My Thoughts:

My first foray into Gaiman’s written world is difficult to paraphrase or even describe. It’s even harder to classify this to a certain genre. But to be safe, let’s go with Adult Fiction. The majority of the book is told from a seven-year-old boy’s perspective so there’s an overt childish innocence to the tone of the book. But you should know that tale is not intended for the kids to read. Regardless of the age, it’s hard to separate the boy from the man because both had an overall detachment to the events of the past and the present. In that aspect, Neil Gaiman failed to “wow” this reader. 
The novel opened with an adult man escaping a funeral and the palpable indifference he felt throughout the whole ordeal. The reader would not know who died but I imagined it was someone close to him – his father, his mother or his sister, perhaps. Apart from the moniker, “handsome George”, the man telling his story remained nameless as well.  It’s a story about a man reminiscing his childhood years – particularly when he was seven years old. It was then that he met a mystical family of three women who lived in a farm house at the end of the lane. Lettie Hempstock – then a six year-old-girl, readily took a shining to a little boy who had just seen a dead man in their stolen family car. He committed suicide. From then, the story spiraled into a dark fairy tale of sorts that began with a pond that Lettie liked to refer to as an ocean.
The three women possess preternatural abilities that enable them to see people or monsters for who they truly were. They can pick out events in history and stitch them together like a quilt. They’re not witches; they are characters created as only Gaiman could have artfully done. There’s no transparency here that would help readers figure out exactly what they were. All you can do is sit back, take the book for what it is and try to immerse yourself in a story unlike anything you’ve ever read before. It has the kind of monster who only wanted to help the people of the town but was doing it diabolically. The imagery is kind of hard to illustrate into words. I guess if you’re not at all attune to his writing, then this would be an obstacle for you as it was for me. 
I’ve read quite a few reviews of his work and from what I can glean from most of them, Neil Gaiman writes fairy tales that are not meant to be read to induce sleep (especially not to children). His is the kind that’s dark, peculiar and grim; the kind that you read with cautious admiration. You will either be overcome with the beauty of his prose or you would despise it because it was beyond your capable understanding. But it does offer a stingy consolation in the end – the operative word being stingy.