There are books that fit into many categories, and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is one of them. It is an adult book, with many of the attributes of a children’s book. It is magic realism, but is based in real life. There is escapism, good and evil, families of all types, allusions to worlds and science and knowledge outside of our own.
It concerns a loner, going home after forty years for his Father’s funeral, and it is here that he remembers the events that happened when he was seven. Starting with a birthday party which no-one goes to, it soon gets worse. A lodger commits suicide in his father’s car, and from this event, monsters are invited into his life, taking on the forms of a new, alluring housekeeper, who seduces his father, and changes his father’s behaviour towards his children, and sets in motion a series of event that would destroy him, if it wasn’t for the women at Hemstock Farm.
Lettie is 11 when she helps the boy, taking him along to find monsters, but when he accidentally lets go of her hand, a monster is allowed to escape through him, taking up a place in his heart, a heart which will remain altered for years. Lettie, her Mother and her Grandmother remember the earth before the moon, and have dominion in this world, and many others, power and control over time, but there are monsters that even their powers cannot stop.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is at once both elegiac for times during the 1970s of the boys childhood, and the effect that it has on his life as an adult. The Hemstocks may have power over time, and can change and alter it at will, but the results are inevitably the same, and there will always be a monster in the heart. In this case, it is real, but it is also metaphorical for all of us, for the world and our childhoods always shape us into the adults we become.
Neil Gaiman’s writing ratchets up the tension, using narrative structure and characterisation to cast a spell, and keep the reader hooked. If you are unfamiliar with his writing, this book is as good as any to make a start.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
9781472200310|Headline pbk Nov 5, 2015
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
FROM THE ARCHIVE: Big Interview nb70: Maggie Gee NO SENSE OF AN ENDING
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