Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism/Fantasy
Have you forgotten incidents from your childhood? Of course. But what if you had traveled with a magical girl to a world beyond the one we know and accidently brought back a harmful spirit who tried to ruin your family? Surely this would stick in your memory. But when the narrator of The Ocean at the End of the Lane travels to the site of his childhood home as an adult, he has to grasp at memories of the little girl named Lettie Hemstock and the evil they faced together when he was only a boy of seven. During his visit home, he travels down the lane to the Hemstock farm and begins to chat with a woman he vaguely remembers. The longer he talks, the more memories come back to him of the thing that nested in his foot from the world beyond and took the form of a housekeeper and nanny calling herself Ursula Monkton. As the story unfolds from the perspective of the man as a young boy, the reader is taken through a strange world and asked to believe many things that lead to questions about the nature of reality, magic, and memory.
First of all, I recommend listening to this as an audio book because it is read by the author. Gaiman reads it like a true storyteller, giving it a flavor only the creator of this world can provide. When I began this book, I was unsure why it was classified as an adult book when the narrator is a seven-year-old boy. Most books narrated by children are written for children. However, I believe the adult classification is mostly due to some adult themes in the book. If not for the sexual references (light as they are), it would likely be enjoyed by children. Perhaps not seven-year-olds, but it would fit into middle grade easily. The tone of the story is hard to describe. You could call it magical, but that would sound too happy. You could call it sinister or dark, but that would sound too harsh. It is somewhere in between. The characters are all well-formed, and the author makes sure we know who the villain is and hate her just as much as the main character does. His descriptions are so clear that you feel as if you are in the fields running from the carpet monster with the narrator. This book fits well into Gaiman’s other writings and will leave you with feelings of suspicion, wonder, and perhaps fear of the unknown.
Gaiman, Neil. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. New York: Harper Collins, 2013.