BY PAUL CHRISTOPHER DANIELS
Neil Gaiman has a penchant for the peculiar and his latest novel is no different. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fantasy work that will delight his cult followers and much like his previous novels, which blur the lines of literary genres, it is sure to attract a variety of new readers as well.
The book opens with our main character, a middle-aged man, who has returned home for the funeral of a family member. On his way back from the service he finds himself taking a detour and ends up at the Hempstocks’ farmhouse where Lettie, his childhood friend, once lived. Upon arriving at the farmhouse he recalls the path to the duckpond and ventures towards it.
The book takes it’s title from Lettie’s adamant belief that their duckpond is in fact an ocean — which may sound unlikely, but then nothing is as it seems in this book. It’s at this pond that a story from his childhood starts revealing itself to him — something that happened 40 years earlier and, up until this point, he had lost all recollection of.
Sitting at the “ocean” his memory returns and takes him back to that fateful day when an opal miner came to stay at their house. From the moment the miner arrives everything around him starts to unravel. The only person whom he can trust, and who would believe in all these strange occurrences, is Lettie Hempstock who has seen far more magic and supernatural things than any child should. (But that’s if she truly is a child, after all her grandmother did witness the Big Bang)
Reminiscent of Gaiman’s award-winning novel Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is on the surface a story of a child’s living nightmare, where his parents can’t save him and his sister is almost as evil as the dark forces that try to harm those he loves. However, if you delve a bit deeper you’ll find that it also deals with far more complex childhood pains — those that we too may have forgotten about as we grew older.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is published by Headline, R240.