Please be warned. The following book review may contain plot points and spoilers.
I’ve never known what to look for in a book review, so what follows is a very humble attempt and sharing an outstandingly good novel.
Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, Coraline, Neverwhere, a few episodes of the BBC hit Doctor Who, has published this wonderful new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Mr. Gaiman puts us in a familiar settings, Sussex, England to be precise, and gives a family who we follow but has us follow a seven year old boy on his adventure at the end of the lane. The story that is told from this perspective is believable because I trust the author, and because I also trust how pieces of fiction operate. Mr. Gaiman writes in such a way that I am not surprised by the strangeness and wisdom of the Hempstock ladies, who just happen to be neighbors of our seven year old protagonist, or the very creepy and unapologetic Ursela Monkton. They are written as if they have always been there, which for many reasons is the way it should be. These ideas may seem jarring to those who don’t read science fiction, fantasy, or similar genres, but for readers used to strange things, these elements just seem to blend right in. When vagueness strikes, it is pointedly specific. There is just enough description for everything. Not too much, and not too little. It’s a balance that keeps me very curious about the world that Mr. Gaiman presents.
The highs and lows for the protagonist are not too many, for the novel is only 170 pages long. While the prologue and epilogue take place in the protagonist’s present, the majority of the story takes place in the past when he is only seven. While Mr. Gaiman is able to illustrate this character and the others so well, I am in awe of how he seems to tell readers that it can’t all be clear, and that is a trait of this book I love. Readers are given just enough information to let our own imaginations take over. We experience, terror, warmth, and things we didn’t think we could understand or had possibly forgotten or remembered differently. It is for these reasons that I believe The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a must read novel.