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.
Dark, original, and powerful. Neil Gaiman seamlessly combines fantasy with the real world in a way that makes you feel like everything is real – and that is terrifying.
This is the first book I’ve read by author Neil Gaiman, and I’m impressed. His style of writing is very descriptive, yet smooth and relevant. He gives the perfect amount of detail for you to feel like you are a part of the story and combines that, transitioning smoothly, with a perfect amount of action and dialogue. His writing also has a very distinct voice which, I find, gives the book itself a definite personality.
The story itself is very dark and mystical yet feels so very real, which makes for an eerie read (if you read at night in the dark like I do, it will make your hairs stand on end). The protagonist, whose name is never revealed (other than his old nickname being “Handsome George”), is very well developed. He is a seven year old boy, gentle and quiet who has a love for books and who is the outcast of his family and society. For a child, he is as would be expected – naive and full of questions about the world. As we journey with his through his childhood we realize that as much as we think we know about the world, it turns out that together we are learning things about this world that neither of us knew existed. In this way we are a part of the journey through this story with “Handsome George”.
The antagonist is quite the character as well. She claims her “human name” to be Ursula Monkton. I find her name curious in the sense that, being a Disney fan, I associate the name Ursula with a monstrous, evil creature (from the Walt Disney’s, The Little Mermaid). From the moment we are introduced to Ursula, you know something is off. She is too perfect – perfect to the point of being scary. She is not as she appears to be, which is a theme of this story and is what makes it so scary to read.
The only reason I didn’t give this book a full five stars is because overall, I prefer reading books that are more fast paced with more paranormal elements. I found this book to be a little confusing as well – you really have to pay attention to some parts to understand if the main character (of whom it is written in first person) is lying to protect his image or if he truly does not have memory of certain events.
If you’re a fan of horror and fantasy books, I would highly recommend this to you!