We readers expect magic when we pick up a Neil Gaiman novel. By now he’s built a reputation for his own unique brand of spellbinding fiction, but even among works like American Gods, Stardust and Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane stands as a landmark. Never before has Gaiman’s fiction felt this personal, this vibrant or this deeply intimate.
Gaiman’s hero is an unnamed narrator who returns to his childhood home as an adult and is flooded with memories of a farm at the end of the English country lane where he grew up. We relive those boyhood memories as he does, beginning with an odd tragedy that brought him to the doorstep of the Hempstock family. There he met 11-year-old Lettie, her mother and her ancient grandmother, who claims she was around when the moon was first made. There he finds a pond that Lettie insists is an ocean. And there he embarked on a strange, mesmerizing and often terrifying adventure that probes the often unreachable corners of human memory, nostalgia and wonder.
Never before has Gaiman’s fiction felt this personal.
At fewer than 200 pages, this is one of Gaiman’s shortest books, and yet The Ocean at the End of the Lane is overflowing with ambition. As it meanders through ever-thickening layers of magical intrigue—which wrap this book like bright green English moss—the novel becomes something more than a boyhood adventure story. It is a fable about the practicalities and inconsistencies of magic, about the often unreliable powers of memory and about how [Wed Aug 27 04:52:03 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. fear can often make us stronger. All this is imparted through a lightning-quick narrative filled with typically spellbinding Gaiman imagery, and told in unpretentious but endlessly evocative prose. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a character study trapped in a fairy tale, a coming-of-age story wrapped in the trappings of myth. It’s Gaiman at his bittersweet, hypnotic best, and it’s a can’t-miss book for this summer.
Matthew Jackson reviews from Texas.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
GAIMAN’S MAGICAL JOURNEY
Versatile and acclaimed author Neil Gaiman targets adult readers in his latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a spellbinding short novel set in England. The book’s middle-aged narrator, who remains anonymous throughout the tale, grew up in Sussex with some very odd neighbors—the Hempstocks: a witchy old woman, a little girl and her mother. When the narrator returns to Sussex many decades later, he finds the old woman and mother at home, just as they were years before, unaltered. The girl, who was gone the last time he saw the family, remains absent. Looking back on his childhood, the narrator recalls his magical involvement with the Hempstocks, who are in reality formidable, ageless figures working to protect the world from an evil supernatural power. With typical skill and imaginative genius, Gaiman combines elements of mythology, mystery and fantasy in an irresistible story that his legions of followers will love. Richly atmospheric and wonderfully original, this is a tale from an author whose inventiveness seems to know no bounds.
David Gilbert’s widely acclaimed second novel, & Sons, is a masterfully constructed narrative about a New York novelist coming to terms with the passing of time. Andrew Dyer is adored by the reading public but leads an isolated life. Motivated by the death of an old friend, he’s eager for his three sons to forge a friendship with one another. His teenage son, Andy, whose out-of-wedlock conception proved the undoing of Andrew’s marriage, is half-brother to his older sons, Richard and Jamie. Richard hopes to become a screenwriter and lives in Los Angeles, while Jamie travels around the world documenting catastrophes. Their story has a few madcap elements, including a fake manuscript and a viral video, but at bottom, it’s a profound examination of family ties and the delicacy of human relationships. Gilbert’s depiction of Andrew as a reclusive, gruff author is spot-on, and his portrayal of sibling relations is sure to resonate with readers. A shrewd observer of humanity, Gilbert has crafted an engaging family story that fans of Franzen and Chabon will savor.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Khaled Hosseini’s beautifully crafted third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, opens in 1952 in Afghanistan, where Saboor, a poor man struggling to survive, sells Pari, his 3-year-old daughter, to a wealthy couple. As subsequent sections of this powerful novel reveal, Saboor’s actions directly affect the family members who follow him, including his young son, Abdullah, who is torn apart by the loss of Pari. Hosseini tracks the repercussions of Saboor’s decision across five decades, as the action shifts outside of Afghanistan to France, America and Greece. He weaves many different plot strands into this remarkable narrative, controlling them all with remarkable skill and clear intent. A poignant tale of generational ties and the inescapable bonds of kinship, this is an impressive follow-up to Hosseini’s previous books, The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007).
This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
The great Gaiman presents a roused-evil tale starring two children. With a one-day laydown on June 18, a 250,000-copy first printing, and an 11-city tour.[Page 62]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gaiman here departs somewhat from his previous books, instead featuring greater emphasis on investigation of the human condition and a more subdued fantasy element. The main character revisits his boyhood, particularly a series of formative events surrounding his friendship with a girl named Lettie Hempstock. The plot rapidly evolves from reminiscent to scary to downright life-threatening, with profound reflections on mortality inherent in the drama. In this ominous environment, seeming evil is explained as a misplaced desire to please, and the ocean at the end of the lane is a liquid knowledge bath transcending space and time that helps rescue the boy. In fact, Lettie is one of the keepers of the ocean, and she and her family represent caretakers who manage the equilibrium of our world and protect the hapless. As we learn the full extent of our narrator's relationship with the Hempstocks, the absolute necessity of the act of forgetting becomes clear. VERDICT Scott Smith's The Ruins meets Astrid Lingren's Pippi Longstocking. A slim and magical feat of meaningful storytelling genius. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/12.]--Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos Lib., CA[Page 97]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later... but they are never lost for good"--and the most grim of those memories, no matter how faint, can haunt one forever, as they do the anonymous narrator of Gaiman's subtle and splendid modern myth. The protagonist, an artist, returns to his childhood home in the English countryside to recover his memory of events that nearly destroyed him and his family when he was seven. The suicide of a stranger opened the way for a deadly spirit who disguised herself as a housekeeper, won over the boy's sister and mother, seduced his father, and threatened the boy if he told anyone the truth. He had allies--a warm and welcoming family of witches at the old farm up the road--but defeating this evil demanded a sacrifice he was not prepared for. Gaiman (Anansi Boys) has crafted a fresh story of magic, humanity, loyalty, and memories "waiting at the edges of things," where lost innocence can still be restored as long as someone is willing to bear the cost. Agent: Merrilee Heifetz, Writers House. (June)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC