I’ve read a few of Neil Gaiman’s novels before, though not for a few years now, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I was as enthralled with one of them as I was with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The closest thing was probably Stardust or American Gods, but those were the first two of his novels I ever read.
The strangeness of this world was so fascinating to me as a reader. I often found myself thinking of the novel when I wasn’t reading it. It’s not a long read by any measure of the imagination but for someone whose free time seems to be dwindling, I had to read it over a number of sittings. I wanted to know exactly what was happening at the Hempstock farmstead that allowed fantastical things to happen in the nameless narrator’s world 40 years prior to him arriving in Sussex for a funeral.
The characters of Lettie and Ursula were intriguing, with both having mystical properties to them. I enjoyed seeing the escalation of the narrator’s feud with Ursula. The way she affected others around her was also intriguing. It’s my understanding that she is the one who made the boy’s father discipline him in the ways he did, but I could be wrong. As a grown man, I found myself a bit terrified of this being.
My curiosity was piqued however at the old world where the Hempstock and the fleas came from. I wanted to know much more. Neil Gaiman did a great job of building this world, even with just a peek behind the curtain. I would love to read more stories set in this place.
Neil Gaiman’s novels are always peculiar and a bit absurd and this one was no different. He has mastered this presentation in his novels. The surreality of this novel worked so well that it felt natural to have an ocean in a bucket or a hole/gate in a jar.
“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”