When an author’s name keeps coming up over and over, at book clubs, at conferences, at critique groups, you know there is something special about what they create. Neil Gaiman is one of those authors. This month I explored his book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
In this book, an unnamed middle-aged man returns to his childhood neighborhood and finds a mysterious draw to visit an old friend’s house. While he is there he remembers a strange event that happened when he was a boy.
Short on cash, the narrator’s family rents out his bedroom and he must share a room with his younger sister. One of their renters commits suicide in the family car. His death allows a supernatural being to enter the world and strange things start happening.
The narrator goes to his friend Lettie Hempstock’s house at the end of the lane for help. Lettie agrees to help and takes the narrator with her to bind the supernatural spirit back into her own world. In the process, the being sticks the narrator in the foot and anchors a pathway back to the human world in him.
The being returns in the form of the caretaker, Ursula Monkton, that the narrator’s family has hired so that the mother can return to work, proving that the most terrible of terrors is the one that is hiding in your own home and no one believes you about. Ursula is manipulative and soon bends the family into loving her, everyone except the narrator, who she turns the family against.
With the Hempstock’s help, the narrator is able to defeat the villanous Ursula, but it comes at great price. To save the narrator the pain of remembering they alter his memories so that the event is more like a dream that quickly fades.
Every few years he returns to visit, and every few years he is allowed to remember the experience once more only to forget once again the moment he walks away from the house.
There is, of course, much more to the story than this. If you want a more complete synopsis you are welcome to go visit the wiki page.
There is a reason that so many people talk about Neil Gaiman’s work, especially around writing circles. He has a talent with language that makes the prose flow beautifully across the page. The ideas that he chooses to weave into each story are unique and intriguing and make the reader question their own realities.
Gaiman’s books are short, making them easy to start and finish in a long evening. Which is a good thing because once you pick one up you won’t want to put it down.
I loved the Ocean at the End of the Lane and can’t wait to pick up another of Gaiman’s books. I recommend this title to those who love well written prose, good vs. evil, and practical magic. Those who don’t like magic, even in small, easy to digest portions, might not like this book.