Neil Gaiman’s newest book The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a short one but a good one. A man returns to his childhood home for a funeral and finds himself arriving where his childhood home no longer stands and where a distant memory returns at the side of a pond that is really an ocean.
Although this book is being promoted as Gaiman’s first adult novel in several years, most of the book reads as YA. Not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, just that the bulk of this relatively short novel (178 pages) takes place while the main character is 7 and his friend appears to be 11. Gaiman is a master at conjuring up vivid images and putting them into the readers head. From the creatures that threaten to torment the young boy to a violent struggle in the middle of the book, the reader is provided with great detail as well as emotion. I feel the loneliness of the boy at the beginning as well as the comfort he feels when Lettie and Old and Young Hempstock take him in and fight for his survival. The child caretaker that comes to live with the boy and his family is a nightmare come true and the boy must find a way to get her out of his house before she takes him down a path of no return. The pond on the Hempstock land isn’t what it appears to be and holds it’s own secrets as well.
This book is a mixture of fantasy and horror and won’t disappoint if you enjoy that genre. The shortness of the novel is not noticeable since Gaiman packs so much into his book – I found myself caring for the boy and Lettie and wishing there was more while at the same time happy with how it ended. One line that really struck me in this book is “adults follow paths, children explore…” Gaiman allows you to be the exploring child while following the path of his imagination. One that I will happily follow again.