by Neil Gaiman
Plot Summary: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.
Review:The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a slim volume, but it packs so much within it's pages! Neil Gaiman weaves a magical story, delicate as memory with so many layers and unspoken emotions beneath its words, that it is a book that will continue to reveal new things on every reread. While reading this book, I found the atmosphere created to be totally enthralling and rich, even with the deceptively simple prose style that I've come to associate with Neil's work. The way he wields words is wondrous to me, because the words in themselves are ordinary, but somehow when he puts them together they become so much more. I always feel like there is a need to savor his stories because of the unique way in which he tells them, and this book is probably the most richly multi-faceted one of his that I have read.
The story begins with the awakening of memory and layers a story of a potentially normal childhood with one of fantasy disguised as myth, moving from the mundane - made somehow especially so when seen through the sincere and candid eyes of a young boy - to things that are timeless and both dangerous and comforting at turns. I think it is difficult to tell you what this story is truly about, mostly because it has so much depth that it can have many different meanings. I found the story entrancing and magical and completely beautiful in a touching and melancholic way. There is also the need once you have finished it to immediately reread it, because there are things that are said in the beginning that are given new meaning by the end and it changes the story significantly.
This is a lovely book from a master storyteller, with a glorious mixture of mystery and emotion and magic. If you are a fan of Neil Gaiman, don't miss this book!