Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written and tightly structured book that is a joy to read. There are fanciful and magic elements à la Harry Potter, but the young hero himself does not possess any magical powers. But there are plenty of people in the story who do.

We never learn the name of the protagonist, so far as I recall, but that doesn’t matter. The story starts (and ends) with him as a grown-up, going to his hometown for a funeral. We also don’t learn whose funeral it is. (This is actually an interesting lesson for the writer. The reader does not need to be beaten over the head and have every bloody thing explained.)

Anyway, when the hero (as a man) has a moment to get away, he visits the house he lived in as a child (now completely changed), and the house at the end of the lane where the neighbors lived (and still do live, unchanged since his childhood).

Thus begins the story through his remembrance of the events of his childhood. (“. . . remembering that, I remembered everything.”)

The title refers to a small pond, which the young girl who lives at the end of the lane calls her ocean. It’s a mysterious and magical body of water that figures prominently in the story.

The girl and her family have magical powers, and are of indeterminate age. We are led to believe through suggestion that they are older than the universe.

The real story is kicked off when someone who is part of this magical world has decided to give people what they want: money. This has calamitous effect, causing the girl, along with the hero, to venture out and try to control this creature.

The creature enters the hero’s body as a worm through the bottom of his foot. He plucks it free and sends it down the bathtub drain. The next thing he knows, the creature has materialized in the form of their new housekeeper/nanny, Ursula Monkton.

She is an evil and powerful thing, and puts terror in the boy’s heart. What he does not know is that the creature has left in him a tunnel back to her own world. The balance of the story is how he, with the help of the magical people down the lane, struggle to control Urusla and send her back home.

I enjoyed the book very much. It’s a fast and pleasant read. Highly recommended.


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