I’m not a rabid Gaiman fan. I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read by him, and follow him on Twitter, but that’s it. When The Ocean at the End of the Lane turned up in the library, I thought sure, why not? And I feel about it almost the way I did about his other books. They were entertaining books with just the right amount of weirdness.
In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the narrator returns to his childhood home, but finds himself drawn to his old neighbours’ house. Memories come flooding back to him. The women who lived there were special. They could hear things others could not, they knew of things no one else did. When he was a kid, the Opal Miner, a man renting a room in his parents’ house, committed suicide setting off a strange chain of events. Something started trying to give people money, but in dangerous ways. Lettie Hempstock, the neighbour girl, took the narrator on a journey to a magical place to set things right, but something went wrong and put his life in danger.
Neil Gaiman likes to put fictional children in peril, which I’m not a fan of. I was really uncomfortable with some of the things that happen to the boy in this story. I suppose The Ocean at the End of the Lane is like the fairy tales of old where awful things happen to kids. Still. The Hempstocks are very old, even the girl is old. They are as old as the world if not older and they deal with entities just as old. They’re actually blasé about it. The boy, however, is just a human boy and these things are scary and can hurt him.
Fairy tales were originally not for children and, although this is about a boyhood experience, The Ocean at the End of the Lane isn’t either. Suicide, sex, adultery, abuse, psychological terror are adult topics. The boy sees all these things through the veil of childhood and he doesn’t always understand them. He does understand the facts about the Hempstocks as a child would though. He isn’t confused about what they are; he doesn’t find it unbelievable. Of course, they are ancient people with magic powers! Why not? He doesn’t need to know more than what they tell him. An adult wouldn’t understand.
I would describe The Ocean at the End of the Lane as a darker Coraline. Maybe it was too dark for me. I enjoyed the storytelling. It’s an imaginative tale. I didn’t enjoy the darker elements of it though. For me it didn’t have the right balance.
I’m kind of mixed on this one. I honestly had no idea what I was going to write about it until I sat down and started typing. It was that kind of story for me!
About the Audio: Neil Gaiman narrates the book himself. He has a wonderful voice. So British! I enjoyed that about listening to the audio. It a fairly short book, so it didn’t take me long to finish it.