THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman.
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.
His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
Thank you, HarperCollins Canada for giving away a finished copy of this book for their HCC Fan Choice giveaway. I was ecstatic to get it in the mail!
Never have I wanted Goodreads to implement half-star ratings until now. This book was so close to perfection, but I can't deny I had issues with it from the beginning. It's with a heavy heart that I have to give The Ocean at the End of the Lane 4-stars even if it really deserves 4.5 stars.
Reminiscent of Gaiman's other novel, Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was dark, haunting and very original. In fact, it's the book I kind of wish Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children turned out to be. The atmosphere of the two books was similar, always so eerie and mysterious. But I think Gaiman did a better job at bringing the whole story together at the end. Not a single word was wasted; if a word appeared in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, it was there for a reason.
In addition to being spooky, this book was also very inventive, which is why I would recommend it to fans of Spirited Away. In that film, the world-building is beyond anything I've ever seen. It had a very unique story and set of characters, but at the end of the day, it's a just story about finding yourself - just like The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Gaiman, reminiscent of Coraline, gives our main character an incurable curiosity mixed with childhood innocence. I truly believed in the 7-year-old's innocence and naive perspective on the world.
And it wasn't just the main character who possessed such qualities. So did Lettie Hempstock. In fact, I would be wrong to call our narrator the main character in this story. Lettie outshone everyone else in the novel. She possessed the curiosity of a child, but the sense of security/comfort of an adult. If you and Lettie was to go on a play-date, you knew she would try the craziest things and open your eyes things you usually disregarded. But you somehow knew, no matter how crazy and dangerous the games appear to be, you'll always be safe with Lettie by your side.
So why on Earth did I not LOVE the book? Well, I think Gaiman paid so much attention to bringing the whole story together at the end of the story, the first 40% of the book was written as springboard for the last 60%. The first 40% was slow, in my opinion. There were details within the first chunk that at the time appeared excessive. Often times, I wanted to say "Okay, I get it. Move on." to the book. If only I could have altered the pacing of this book, I would gladly give it 5-stars. (Perhaps Old Mrs. Hempstock can help me with that...)
Ultimately, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a book filled with comfort and love, despite being eerie and dark. And, most importantly, it makes the reader miss her home. (Please excuse me while I go hug my family).
P.S.: I listened to this on audiobook. It was narrated by none other than Neil himself, so I highly recommend it.
Edit #1: I didn't know this was optioned for a film. I really hope they do something similar Coraline, and not live-action.