Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman, 4 *’s)

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a reasonably short novel with fairly short chapters. Although I finished it last night, I can’t remember the protagonist’s name. This is because it was told from First Person point-of-view and they only mention the main character’s name once or twice (I think). Anyway, it took a bit for me to get into this story. I read it primarily for a group I joined on Goodreads. Having finished it, I’m glad I read it. Halfway through, though, I was having a tough time staying focused on the tale. It’s a fantasy tale set in the real world, and the beginning was just too slow for my tastes.

 

Anyway, the story begins with the death of a border at the protagonist’s house (the protagonist is a young boy of seven years). This sets off a series of events beginning with the awakening of a creature called a “flea.” It wasn’t a real flea; it was a mystical creature made of awnings and rotting canvas that assumed a human shape and proceeded to make the protagonist’s life a very troublesome affair. The protagonist’s “young” friend, Lettie Hempstock, is a girl of apparently eleven years of age is … I guess she’s a kind of force of nature. She’s not a witch (at least she claims not to be), but she is far older than her seemingly eleven years. The same holds for her “mother” and “grandmother.” Anyway, the plot revolves around the mystical happenings that plague the protagonist for several days during which Lettie does her best to help him. There are … difficulties, though. You’ll have to read it to learn more.

 

Strengths: the characters were well-developed and the plot clear. The ending was excellent. It had a very surreal feel to it, and I walked away wondering if Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother were all the same person/entity, kind of like the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone of lore. After reflection, I don’t think they were, but I think that would have been really cool if they had been. Regardless, the atmosphere of the Epilogue made the whole book worth reading. It was really quite well done. Weaknesses: well, I’m a fantasy buff and I prefer to see swords swinging and spells flying, chaos and blood. Because there was remarkably little of that in this story, I was bored for the first few chapters. I never fully got into the story, except for the Epilogue … and that does not bode well for the novel as a whole. I’m glad I read it, but I have no intention of reading it ever again.

 

Ultimately, I’ll give Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane three and a half, or maybe even four stars out of five (despite my complaints, it was really quite well written).

This review originally appeared on Goodreads on 1-19-14.

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