“A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home and is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl and her mother and grandmother. As he sits by the pond behind the ramshackle old house, the unremembered past comes flooding back–a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, 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.”
Memories. No one remembers the same things the exact same way. And when confronted with a past that happened decades ago… How do you know if you’re remembering events as they really happened? Or if you’re remembering them the way you want to remember them?
Neil Gaiman’s latest novel is a hard book to categorize. It’s easy to write it off as a fantasy novel–but what if it’s not?
Reading the synopsis, the first thing I assumed about our main character was that he underwent trauma. And right off the bat, death hounds his every turn. Take away the fantastical, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a very dark look at a childhood replete with traumatizing events. There’s the aforementioned death, emotional abuse, betrayal, and more.
Masking the darkness with fantasy, the novel feels like a grand adventure of good versus an ambivalent evil, a very elementary definition of evil. So basic is the definition that you know it can’t be that clear cut. And it’s not.
As we delve deeper into the psyche of our main character, and as the story further unravels, we see the gray in between the black and white. And we see the threads that hang loosely. Ended prematurely, not because the writer chooses to do so, but because the story calls for it. Some endings happen without seeming like an ending at all. And the actual ending is not an ending at all.
This is not a book for children to read alone, I think. This is a book best read with an adult to explain why certain things happen. In a way, this reminds me of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, except less explicit about its topic.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane does not tell you that it’s about death, about grief, or about a boy’s coming-of-age story. It gives you the puzzle pieces, that it has the ingredients I’ve mentioned in the third paragraph (not counting the synopsis.) The novel doesn’t solve the puzzle for you.
It can have a different meaning for everyone.
For me, the novel is about the normal evil. The evil we overlook. And how it affects the most impressionable child.
But no one reads books the exact same way. Who’s to say anyone’s reading is the right one? Who’s to say that there’s only one way of reading a book? It means one thing for me, but it could mean differently for you.
And my favorite of the reviews I’ve read so far:
Lunatic or Genius?
What about you? What did you think about the book? What do you think the book is about? I’m looking forward to discuss this book with you guys.