Published: 18 June 2013 by Headline Review (UK Edition)
Pages: 248 (hardcover)
Source: Own library
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman.
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.
His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
I've been looking forward to Neil Gaiman's new book for a while. I really enjoyed The Graveyard Book on audio, and I was looking forward to seeing how Gaiman writes to a more adult audience. I'd debated whether to try The Ocean at the End of the Lane in audio first, but eventually decided I wanted to see how it would read on paper.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is essentially a reflection on an event in the childhood of a middle-aged man, and that is pretty much the way that it becomes an 'adult' book rather than a children's book - it shows in the language particularly, as there is none of the childish enthusiasm in the writing if it had been 'live' events told through the eyes of the narrator as they happened.
The fantastical element actually felt rather restrained to me - and that's also a comparison that I could make to The Graveyard Book - Gaiman weaves fantasy with realism so well that a lot of what happens in The Ocean At the End of the Lane has a dreamlike quality, rather than intense fantasy, and that's the kind of fantasy I like. For example, the family has NO idea what is actually happening to their son as they seem to be shielded from the events that are occuring even in their own home.
A very quick read, I enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane quite a lot, although I didn't find myself cheering for the main character as much as I would have liked - granted it's hard to connect with a nine-year-old-boy when you are a woman in your thirties, but I had expected to feel more protective and concerned than I actually did. I also had trouble discerning between the two older women at times - in part because of their names, but also because they didn't have the individual presence to distinguish themselves.
I haven't read enough of Neil Gaiman to say how this book rates in relation to his earlier work, but I would actually recommend this one on audio - but only if it's narrated by Neil Gaiman himself (wink, wink).
P.S. I will never look at worms the same way again.