Typically, I reserve Fridays to review particularly terrifying and chilling books as part of my Frightful Friday feature. This Friday I thought I’d change things up a bit and instead showcase a book that I’ve become obsessed with as of late, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
I can’t tell you win I first discovered Gaiman’s writing. I can, however, share how each and everything this man has written has changed my life, allowing me to see the world in a completely new way. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no different. In this novel, the reader is introduced to a nameless middle-aged man who has returned to his childhood home for a funeral. While the house is once lived in is gone, he gravitates to the farmhouse at the end of the lane. The site of an event that forever altered his life, the farmhouse almost calls out to him and instantly he is taken back in time to when he was seven years old and met a girl named Lettie Hempstock. The past that comes back is far too dark for any child to have actually experienced.
As a child, the young boy was quite bookish. Never having many friends, he instead found comfort in reading. The impetus for the drastic change in his life started with a suicide, sparking a series of events that brought darkness to the already dark and lonely world of this little boy. The only light he sees in his world is young Lettie. He recalls Lettie introducing him to a pond at the end of the lane. She didn’t refer it it as a pond, though, for instead she insisted that small circle of water was actually an ocean.
Lettie has a feeling of uniqueness surrounding her. She seems to know far more than any child her age would ever know, an insight to the deepest and darkest parts of the world around her. It is this bond he has formed with this unique young girl that allows this young boy to face a host of dark and terrifying experiences brought upon him.
I don’t want to divulge too much about the synopsis for fear of taking away from your reading experience. At it’s core, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a book about the innocence of childhood and what happens when that innocence is broken. In typical Gaiman style, this is all introduced in a dark, mythical and magical manner.
The main character is a young boy who escapes life by immersing himself in the world of the books he reads. For a child his age, he’s devoured books that are far beyond his years. While he is still relatively young, he’s beginning to notice the differences between adults and children, how we all seem to lose a bit of our innocence and imagination as we mature.
Adult stories never made sense, and they were slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets, Masonic, mythic secrets, to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and dangerous fairies.
Reading of this young boys childhood and the physical and emotional trek he is about to embark upon was incredibly heartwarming, taking me back to my own childhood. I barely remember the moment when I realized that adulthood isn’t as magical and wonderful as childhood, but in reading this novel, I am reminded that there is still magic and wonder in our lives no matter our age. Through books like this, we have the ability to embark on a magical journey each time we open and turn the pages of a book.
Having read this book three times in the last two weeks, it is definitely one of those books that requires multiple reads for it is impossible to truly grasp it’s beauty and the sheer volume of the message portrayed in just one reading. This is a novel that will appeal to the likes of a wide range of readers, a book I plan on gifting to ever reader I know. For this book is truly a gift, rewarding readers with a message that will resound forever within their heart and soul. Highly, highly, highly recommended.