The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

August 9, 2013

Book review: Gaiman’s novel offers breathtaking journey

NORMAN — Book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013, HarperCollins Publishers)

Author: Neil Gaiman

Why you should read: Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” takes readers into the world of a man who has returned to a place he knew as a child. A place where dark and terrible things happened, and a place where magic happened. Now, 40 years later, he returns to the old farm where he once knew a girl named Lettie Hempstock, and takes a walk by the duck pond she used to refer to as an ocean, not knowing that forgotten memories and revelations would be unleashed with his visit.

“…it wasn’t the sea. It was the ocean. Lettie Hempstock’s ocean. I remembered that, and, remembering that, I remembered everything.”

When adults look back on their childhoods, they remember things differently, and old haunts that once seemed larger than life become small and uninviting. That’s what Gaiman brings to life in this novel, not only getting readers to think back on their own young lives, but to do it again through this narrator. Taken back in time, he remembers the days of his 7-year-old self. When his father’s car is stolen and recovered, only to find out a man committed suicide in it, a wickedness too harsh for a young mind is released.

He then meets Lettie, 11, who takes him to the magical farm at the end of the lane and introduces him to her kind-hearted family. She promises to look after him and protect him from the darkness.

Gaiman’s novel takes a breathtaking journey through the boy’s harsh and mystical events of his childhood. It’s uniquely captivating. It is equally beautiful and horrible. The memories of darkness and magic make it easy to either write them off as simply coming from a young, exaggerating mind or question if they truly happened the way they’re told.

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