When Neil Gaiman started writing Ocean at the End of the Lane his intentions were to write a short story for his wife Amanda Palmer as an answer to her questions about his own childhood. What it grew into, on the other hand, was a surreal dark fairytale that manages to make you nostalgic for events that never happened. I have been a fan of Gaiman’s work for years, so when I heard that he was releasing his first novel since the 2005 hit Anansi Boys I pre-ordered a signed first edition immediately. When it finally arrived I finished it in an afternoon.
It’s safe to imagine our unnamed narrator as a young Neil himself (ha). The book opens with a man leading us through his memories of his small hometown. When a funeral brings him back he visits the home of his old friend Lettie Hempstock and reminisces about the time they spent together as children.
So far this is a sweet little story, wouldn’t you think? Maybe something Lifetime would pick up?
No, This is Gaiman we’re talking about. The horrors his character encounters come out soon enough and the danger he faces becomes much larger and ancient. All the while the Hempstock’s and their ocean are the only companions and the only hope he’s got while he struggles to set the world back the way he’d grown used to it being.
What sets Neil apart from other genre writers is he has a way of sentimentalizing horror like few others can. In roughly 180 pages he takes us to the strained edges of our very existence then makes us miss it when it’s over. So in honor of my newly acquired black cat, Ocean, I would like to ask you all to whip out the rose glasses you view your own childhood with and read this book; See if he doesn’t stain your lenses a bit. World renowned and widely loved since Sandman it’s no surprise that he can still deliver a classic.