I was unsure at first about where this book was going to take me. The cover and the blurb were both enchanting, hinting at some sort of fantasy, yet the book began with a very ordinary man and no magic at all. All I can say about that is that I am so glad I read on!
The Ocean at the End of the Lane tells the story of a suicide and the surreal events that follow, of three strange people with a mysterious lake in their back garden, of horrific mythical creatures and characters that dance on the line between good and evil. It is a fairy tale for adults.
All the way through, I wondered what exactly I was reading and where the story was going to go. It was completely new territory for me, unlike anything I have read before. I had no expectations, and that was one of the things that made me unable to put the book down. Without wanting to give anything away, I’ll say that the book tells the story of a small boy who meets a girl who believes she has an ocean in her garden. Upon the suicide of a man who lost a lot of money, something bad is let into the world, and the unbelievable follows.
I flicked back through the book in astonishment once I had finished, calculating, rethinking, asking myself “what just happened here?” You’d have to read it to understand what I am talking about. It created so many questions in my head, the answers to which are hinted at but never fully explained. There is an ambiguity there that the reader must make sense of by himself. The book discusses dark matter and questions the existence of everything. It made me wonder if the world is really as it seems, or if it is all a facade, a scratch in the surface of something bigger. It suggests that our world is one of many, with beings that can flit between each one as easily as opening a door into the universe. I was at loss for words.
The novel is beautifully written from a child’s perspective. Gaiman portrays the simplicity of a child’s outlook with things like the main character’s appreciation of the taste of his food when everything around him is going wrong. I was transported back to childhood, which Gaiman depicts as innocent and easy and yet terrifying and frustrating. One of my favourite scenes is one one of the most simple, when the boy looks at himself in the mirror and who he truly is behind his face. It’s such a wonderful question for a child to ask, and the story suggests that it is our souls, not out bodies, that define who we are.
Gaiman takes on the difficult task of describing the indescribable and does it incredibly well. “I knew what Egg was- where the universe began, to the sound of uncreated voices singing in the void- and I knew where Rose was- the peculiar crinkling of space on space into dimensions that fold like origami and blossom like strange orchids, and which would mark the last good time before the eventual end of everything and the next Big Bang, which would be, I knew now, nothing of the kind.”
Another good point was his realistic and very vivid characters. I hated Ursula Monkton. I have not hated a character so much since Dolores Umbridge.
This was an astonishing story, one I will carry with me forever. Neil Gaiman is a genius. He took me to the edge of reality and back.