The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
GENRE: Fantasy | PAGES: 246
My rating: ★★★★
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is intensely captivating. It reads like a dark fairy tale of sorts, packed with heavy themes such as truth and death and sacrifice.
The narrator is a nameless boy. We meet him first as a man returning to his childhood home of fragmented memories but the story is told in the distinct and engaging voice of his younger self. He recounts the events following his seventh birthday, which begins as a run-down of semi-normal every-day happenings before escalating to something disturbing then entirely other-worldly.
This child endures certain horrors no child should witness; it is dark and disturbing. Yet, the way everything is described is such that you cannot turn away. From the death of that kitten to the suicide scene, from the abuse at the hands of his own father to the battles with faceless horrors borne of the shadows, the story pulls you helplessly along, conjuring up a world that is equal parts stark horror and sheer beauty, constantly alternating between magic and harsh reality.
The three magical women the boy encounters, possess elements of both the Fates and the Maiden, Mother, and Crone ensemble. Their sense of timelessness and all-knowing power and truth came through and although their identity or purpose is never fully explained, the mystery of them is beguiling rather than frustrating.
The writing is beautiful—sheer perfection. Neil Gaiman makes poetry out of everything—even the mundane, and this tale is anything but mundane. It is fantastical and wonderfully weird yet somehow, the heart of the story keeps its feet firmly on the ground—the themes are as relatable as they are thought-provoking.
I thought: I’m going to die.
And thinking that, I was determined to live.
I loved this book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of those rare oxymoronic gems, capable of both disturbing and fascinating the reader. It is uniquely imaginative and original while establishing and maintaining a keen sense of familiarity. Needless to say, Mr. Gaiman has yet another new fan and my to-read pile just got a little higher.