When it was first announced that Neil Gaiman would publish a new adult work, his first in close to a decade, like countless readers I was excited! Anansi Boys was released in 2005 and fans were eagerly awaiting a new book for adults from the author. The fact that it would be little more than a novella in chapbook format sort of put a damper on things, and so did the expensive price tag considering the size of the novel. But hey, it was Neil Gaiman, so what the heck!?! Got it at 50% off on Amazon and I was good to go!
Reading the acknowledgments, it was interesting to discover that The Ocean at the End of the Lane, or at least the idea behind the tale, was at first meant to be a short story for an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan. But then the story grew and became this book. Which explains why it's shorter than Gaiman's past adult works. And yet, when you reach the end of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, you realize that this book is as long as it needs to be.
Here's the blurb:
A major new work from "a writer to make readers rejoice" (Minneapolis Star Tribune)— a moving story of memory, magic, and survival. Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what. A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
I don't think that any other writer can set the mood the way Neil Gaiman can. Just a few pages into the book and the author captures your imagination and drags you into this spellbinding tale. Using a number of mythological themes that will resonate with speculative fiction readers, Gaiman's evocative prose takes us on a remarkable journey that explores the innocence of childhood and so much more.
Like Carlos Ruiz Zafón, in a few short sentences Gaiman can introduce you to fully fleshed out characters whose personalities leap off the pages. Whether it's the narrator, the opal miner, Lettie or the other two Hempstock women, somehow they are all three-dimensional men and women one can relate to.
Labeled as Neil Gaiman's first work for adults in years, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fairy tale that should mesmerize readers of all ages. Absorbing and compelling, this novel makes for an awesome reading experience. Sadly, all too soon we come to its end. . . An end that is moving and fills you with wonder.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the sort of fairy tale that only Neil Gaiman's fertile imagination could produce. This book demonstrates yet again that Gaiman is a master storyteller at the top of his game.