“Nothing’s ever the same,” she said. “Be it a second later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and roiling. And people change as much as oceans.”
A middle aged, lonely man, returns to his childhood home town for a funeral. We don’t know whose funeral. We don’t know the man’s name. And we never do. And it doesn’t matter. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a lyrical, fairytale-esque story about childhood, fears, friendship, and how books and words can save you sometimes. It’s about magic and monsters and not understanding everything but having faith enough to believe in it anyway. The man comes to the end of a lane, and suddenly memories rush back, overwhelming him like an ocean wave knocking him down.
I was so happy to be riding that wave of memory with him. Readers are taken back to a nameless child’s confusing memory of being seven years old, lonely and afraid, and what happens when strange people wander into your life. This was my second Neil Gaiman book, and I loved it from beginning to end. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reads like a dream. It makes you think of your own childhood, and the fears and friendships you had when you were seven. It shows you how memories can be twisted and confused when you look back, but the idea of the people in them never change. I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.
I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else. I absolutely loved, and of course completely related to, the young narrator’s connection to books and reading. He found solace in them, when his world was spiraling out of his control, or when he was feeling alone or confused. The memories of the books he read play a crucial role in his choices, which I think is true for anyone who grew up surrounded by books and reading.
Also, Lettie Hempstock and her family were so interesting, and so important to not just the overall story, but the narrator’s life, whether he can remember it all or not. I’m still wondering if there is a connection between Liza Hempstock from The Graveyard Book, who was burned at the stake for being a witch, and the Hempstock family in this book. There’s no way it’s a coincidence. And the shadowy hunger birds, those are so similar to the bird creatures who rescued Bod from the Hell Hound in The Graveyard Book. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Gaiman is one of those author’s whose world’s are all connected. I hope they are! His work is like nothing I’ve ever read before.
There are so many amazing lines and so much beautiful writing throughout The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I cannot recommend it hard enough. I had this sitting on my Nook for over a year before finally reading it, and it was well worth the wait. Now I want to read ALL THE NEIL GAIMAN!
Tell me, what is your favorite Neil Gaiman book? I’ve only read this and The Graveyard Book! Which should I read next!