The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Rating: 5 Stars
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 this 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 defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
Gaiman is the king of eerie childhood stories – of portraying that barrier between what a child sees and what an adult sees. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the epitome of this. Through what may seem to be a traditional lens -a man looking back at his childhood – Gaiman weaves a modern fairy tale that will last through the ages.
It’s not a big book – I read it in a couple of hours last week in the Isle of Skye (the irony of which hit me upon reading the author’s note at the end, which placed Gaiman on the same island 3 years ago). But although it’s small it’s perfectly formed and really packs a punch. I’m not a reader of thin books ordinarily – just like I’m not an avid reader of short stories – but I’ll always make an exception for Gaiman.
That said, for me this could have been another two hundred pages and I would have gladly devoured every word. It has a really interesting plot and a fantastically realised world. The three women at the end of the lane are all wonderfully written and I would gladly read a book just dedicated to their adventures. Gaiman is not known for his sequels *cough* Neverwhere 2.0 *cough* but I think this one really has potential within its wider world building. More please!