Review: ‘The Ocean At The End Of The Lane’ by Neil Gaiman

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2013

Headline Publishing Group

The unknown narrator, escaping from a family funeral, returns to his childhood home, but not finding what he sought he carries on down the Lane, to the Hempstock Farm, home of his only childhood friend Lettie Hempstock, her mother and grandmother. While there he remembers the bizarre events that happened in the spring just after he turned seven, forty odd years before. Then, he forgets again.

 

The genius of Neil Gaiman’s storytelling is his ability to weave myth, memory and fantasy into original narratives. His unique take on stories that have been around forever makes them fresh and new, where a less inventive writer would be dull and repetitive.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is another fine example of his creativity, and is currently fighting with ‘American Gods’ for first place on my list of favourite Neil Gaiman books (Mr Wednesday and ‘Lo-key’ Lyesmith are such wonderfully devious bastards – I love them), and by the end of the book I was crying. I felt so sorry for the narrator, and Ginnie Hempstock. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Hempstock ladies are based on the weird sisters. Whoever they are based on though, they are archetypal characters – the wise old lady, the motherly farm-wife, the wild country girls – without being caricatures. The narration, with it’s changing perspective, is a seamless reflection on memory; what is real? Which of our childhood memories do we forget and why?

This is a thought-provoking, beautifully written book. At 243 pages it isn’t huge, but I read it in four and a half hours. I couldn’t put it down.

 

Rose

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