The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
I fell in love with this book the moment I started reading it. It had been a long time since I had read a Neil Gaiman novel and I was reminded how much I enjoyed his writing. This story is about a man who has gone home for a funeral and decides to visit the area where he grew up. His family home is no longer there, but a family that lived at the end of the lane near a lake still lives there. While sitting there staring out at the water, he remembers things that happened to him when he was a boy; things he had forgotten.
Gaiman does a fantastic job getting into the mind of a seven-year-old boy. It shifted very well from the adult to the boy’s point of view. The tone of the book was very child-like in terms of wonder, curiosity and horror, but always had a touch of an adult’s viewpoint of remembering those feelings as a child. One example is about the boy’s father burning the toast, but eating it while telling him that it was his favorite. He said, “When I was much older he confessed to me that he had not ever liked burnt toast, had only eaten it to prevent it from going to waste, and, for a fraction of a moment, my entire childhood felt like a lie.” I loved that sentiment of being older and learning things that you believed as a child were not true.
Odd things start happening to the boy when his parents have to rent out a room in their house to make ends meet. Ursula Monkton moves in and the family falls in love with her while the boy doesn’t trust her. He knows something isn’t right with her, but is it the imagination of a child or is she really not nice and normal? Viewing interactions between Ursula and his father are interesting because as a child, he doesn’t fully understand what is going on between the two of them and it kept reminding me that we were viewing the story through a small boy’s eyes.
Later on when things become scary, magical and wonderful, it all seems to be building up to something more and then the story wraps up a bit too neatly. It was my only issue with the book. I felt like it was the first act in an epic story. It was just getting warmed up and then it was over. We were learning things about the Hempstocks that lived at the end of the lane. They were fascinating, even though we didn’t get to know much about them because the book was over. It did wrap up the plot with Ursula while introducing us to the Hempstocks, but it did feel like an introduction. I would love another story about the Hempstocks in another novel, either from this boy’s point of view of from their own. I was really enjoying reading it and just wanted more.