When I picked up this book I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I like Neil Gaiman and I’ve read some of his books before: Stardust, Anansi Boys and Neverwhere. I liked the first two, I liked Neverwhere but I could never finish it. I don’t actually remember why, but I watched the TV series so it’s all good.
Anyway I don’t think I even read the blurb, I just wanted to read it because of the author.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about an unnamed man remembering an event that happened many years ago, when he was seven. His father dies and he goes to a ‘safe place’ from his childhood, sits down with a cup of tea and remembers. Very British. It’s not a long novel, so all the action happens quite quickly, and we get into the meat of the story straight from the off. When his parents’ lodger is found dead in the family car, the boy meets Lettie Hempstock, the girl from the farm down the lane, and is drawn into a world of mystical beings that starts to read like an episode of Doctor Who, but in a good way. This is how he learns of magic. This is how he learns of friendship. This is how he is saved.
The whole story takes place in a very vague sort of way, which makes it kind of timeless. There are no mentions of mobile phones and internet but nothing is mentioned that screams ‘This is the 60’s!’ or ‘This is the 70’s!’. I like that timelessness, it’s intriguing and keeps the story relevant whenever you read it.
I love the way this is written, the prose is almost poetic, especially since very few characters are actually named, it reads in ebbs and flows, like the ocean. One particularly good page, although it made me visibly gag in the canteen at work, is page 63, when He removes a worm from the bottom of his foot. If you’ve read it you know, if you haven’t then surely that sentence is enough to make you want to?
Overall I really enjoyed this book; it’s a wonderful fairy tale at first glance, and a dark nightmare on closer inspection. I love the narration: a man remembering. Just as you forget that this is not happening as you read it, the Man breaks his concentration just long enough to remind you. The boy is not a brave hero set out to save the world. He is just that, a boy. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads and I recommend it to everyone.