Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman.
Publisher: William Morrow Books.
Release Date: June 13th 2013.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
As you grow up, there’s one thing you will always cherish in your life and that’s your childhood. The memories of those unchained and untainted days always resurface when you least expect them to or serve as a lifeboat to the darker days. The sense of exploration and freedom that comes with a joyous childhood can rarely ever be surpassed, and even less likely to be replaced. After all, those are the days that shape us into the person we are today. While memories are beautiful, they are also fragile as time can stain the innocent recollections we attempt to keep intact. It is how we cling onto them and use them that makes them so special today. But what about the darker experiences we might have survived through? How much do we want to remember of those days, and how much is worth keeping within arm’s length?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of an unnamed protagonist who returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Along the way he takes a detour to head towards the farm of the Hemstocks’s family (daughter, mother and grand-mother) where lost memories of his days as a seven year old stream through his consciousness and takes over the narrative. This is where the eerie, weird and magical occur, and steer this tale into the realm of fables. From mysterious beings who find their gateway into the real world and a treacherous nanny whose intentions are hidden from the protagonist’s parents and sister, the story finds its essence in the imagination and innocence of a child.
Neil Gaiman’s writing is yet again impeccable and his fascination for dreams and mythologies continues to shine in this story. Although beautiful, its main quality lies in its ability to be atmospheric, in the way he makes darkness seem so sharp and smooth at the same time. The magnetic pull that his words have throughout this story is astonishing, but his grasp on the mythical elements he incorporates to the protagonist’s past memories as a child is suffocatingly hypnotizing. What he succeeds in conveying through the story is the very fear of a child of the unknown, to the things that he can’t understand, but he also beautifully portrays the dangerously creative ways a child attempts to understand it all. Through the eyes of an innocent child, darkness is far more horrifying when you feel alone against the world.
Rest assured, the loneliness isn’t absolute as the Hempstocks’ family is a beacon of hope for our young protagonist. What they add to the story is always enigmatic, but they remain the foundation to the world-building. These confident and wisdom-full characters are always a pleasure to have around, and especially help a lot in alleviating the heavy and dark atmosphere that roams on our protagonist. Their role in the bigger scheme of things is also undeniable, especially once you reach the ending. In fact, that is where you truly start to comprehend the link Neil Gaiman was able to establish between childhood and adulthood. It’s not just about the lessons we learn, but the coping mechanisms we cement over the years to be able to revisit the past without falling in a pit of regrets, regrets of all the mistakes we make as an innocent child.