I finished Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I first noticed the lightness of the book when I picked it up off the reserve shelf at our public library. I have the combined copy of American Gods and Anansi Boys which stands as a heavy pillar on my bookshelf and I read Neverwhere as a digital copy (these three have 565, 368, & 400 pages respectively). The Ocean has 180 pages and while the physical appearance of the is book slight, the content is not.
The narrator is a man who returns to his hometown for a family funeral and instead of attending the gathering after the burial drives to where he grew up. His house has been destroyed and built into housing subdivisions but past his home – at the end of the lane – is another home that stands just as it was when he was younger, and that’s how the story begins, as the younger version of the man narrates.
Gaiman’s book are never simple stories, instead choosing to balance on the ideas of gods in our world and how they might act. This book is no exception and we’re introduce to Lettie Hempstock, a girl who has been “eleven for a long time”.
It’s the things Gaiman implies that give his stories such a powerful aura more than the things he says. His analogies are good and descriptions just right but with each of these he only takes us to the ledge,and then asks us to use our imaginations to look over.
The book moves along at a nice pace, never stalling thanks in part to it’s brevity. It seems like the perfect length for the story where I’ve felt other books of his might have faded a bit too long. In his other books a knowledge of the gods help in the understanding (with Rowling it was word etymology) but this book seems to run free of established theologies and live more in our imaginations.
The final twenty pages of the book are especially good as Gaiman wraps up a few of the twists he included, though I wanted more from the ending – I always do. If you enjoy reading fiction this is a wonderful book and the mechanisms for telling the story fit perfectly. Like when the protagonist lets the ocean wash over him, you’ll be just as happy, if only to understand everything about this book.