Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Information: New York: William Morrow, 2014 (1st pbk. ed.)
Library of Congress Classification: PR6057.A319
Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Good and evil—Fiction
I am ashamed to say that this is the first book I’ve ever read by Neil Gaiman.
Not that I haven’t had friends encouraging me to read Gaiman’s works. I just never got around to it. So when I spotted this book, which is under 200 pages, was in Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, I decided to give it a try. The two people who I was with had also read it, and loved it.
This is the story of a boy who ends up getting involved with the supernatural activities of his neighbors, the Hempstocks. These three women are independent, and the boy, at the age of seven, befriends Lottie, who is eleven. He is with her and inadvertently gets into trouble when his heart is used as a gateway into this universe by something calling itself Ursula Monkton, who wants to give everyone everything that they ever wanted. This is not a good thing, and the Hempstocks attempt to protect the boy while trying to get Ursula to leave this dimension. Meanwhile, she ingratiates herself into the boy’s family.
It’s a good story. Gaiman, who is interviewed in the back of the book, compares the Hempstocks to the Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of many goddesses. (I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even pick up on this.) The interviewer points out that the only people with names in the book are the Hempstocks and Ursula; all other characters are referred to by how they dress or by role, e.g. the boy’s sister, father, etc. The story is told from the first person, that of a man remembering an adventure when he was seven.
I enjoyed the book thoroughly. It was a good read, and Gaiman is very clever in how he constructs the story and how it eventually ends. I like how Gaiman writes, too. Listening to the man talk about his feelings and the things he says as a child is believable. This book could be read by children as well. Ursula is a nasty character, but I don’t think the action is too scary. There is violence, but nothing too graphic, and a sex scene that is seen from a child’s perspective. The entire book reads like a fairy tale or something that takes place outside the normal plane of existence.
A really good book.