Ho boy. This book was surely the perfect one to read to pull me out of a reading rut. This is my third Neil Gaiman novel, and the first that truly chilled me to the bone. It’s much more serious and much less whimsical than his other stories I’ve read, but no less magical. The Ocean at the End of the Lane sparks some interesting questions about memory, childhood, and how adulthood morphs all of us. I would recommend this book to people of all ages.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane begins on a somber note: a middle-aged, divorced man returns to his Sussex home to attend a funeral, and in between the service and the luncheon, he finds himself driving to a spot he doesn’t realize until he gets there: an old farmhouse he used to know when he was a very small boy.
He sits by a pond at the edge of the land, and as he does, he remembers repressed memories from when he was seven years old, when an 11-year-old girl named Lettie Hempstock, whose family owned the farm, saved him from a dark, supernatural evil. His memories are triggered by the fact that Lettie called the small pond an “ocean.”
Through the eyes of the narrator, we get to know him as a shy, sensitive seven-year-old who uses books and stories to escape from everyday life. But the whole of the narrative is dominated by the (nameless) main character’s experience dealing with an evil being, who calls herself Ursula Monkton. He first comes into contact with the being when he wakes up choking on a coin, and learns from his enigmatic new friend Lettie Hempstock that a supernatural, devious force is trying to “give people what they want” and is doing it in a way that’ll harm humans.