Much ado has been made about Neil Gaiman‘s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, released June 18, 2013. Gaiman has not released an adult novel in the last 8 years, and though it may not seem like it at first, Gaiman’s latest novel is indeed, classified as an adult novel (meaning that it is not a children’s book or a young adult book, not that it is pornographic in nature).
Ocean is about a man who, after a recent death in his family, finds himself driving back to the neighborhood of his childhood – back to his old home, and in particular, to the home of a mysterious family down the lane who owned a farm and a duck pond, which one of the members of the family claimed to be an ocean.
The farm is owned by the Hempstock women – 3 generations of women who claimed to have come over from the ‘old world’ – Old Mrs. Hempstock, her daughter, Mrs. Ginnie Hempstock, and Ginnie’s 11-year-old daughter, Lettie Hempstock. During his visit to the Hempstock Farm, the unnamed narrator suddenly remembers his childhood friendship with Lettie and the incredible events he experienced when he was 7 years old.
Most of the novel, told from the perspective of an adult trying to remember his 7-year-old self recounts magical, fantastical events and mundane realities in the same uncertain nature of the narrator, as though it was the most normal thing for magical problems to co-exist with problems of poverty or extra-marital affairs.
The events experienced by the narrator when he was 7 years old were beyond incredible, and I, for one find it hard to believe that he had forgotten them as he got older. And maybe that’s the point of the novel: that despite the magic one feels and experiences during childhood, it will be forgotten over time by buried by everyday mundane realities; that all adults can do is remember, if they can even remember, their childhood but never truly remember the real magic they felt at the time. I think the novel is also about unconditional love, great sacrifices people make for others and whether or not anyone actually really lives up to people’s expectations or be worth it in the end.
In a way, I think it was a sad, short story about growing up, reality and the weaknesses of people, especially adults…or it could be completely different from what I think – maybe it really is just a magical story of a 7-year-old boy who had a friend who had an ocean on her farm at the end of the lane.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013) – Neil Gaiman
Personal rating: 2.5/5