The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Before I read this book, I had never heard of Neil Gaiman. But then, while I was writing this review, I discovered that he wrote Coraline, the book on which this movie was based:
Coraline should give you a good idea of this guy’s style. Think: creepy parallel universes and kids having to overcome scary and dangerous situations. It’s fantastical and a little scary. In a good way. If you liked Coraline (or wanted to like Coraline, even if the movie didn’t live up to your expectations), chances are, you’ll like this.
With that knowledge, you are ready to see a picture of the cover. You now know enough not to judge it for the silly cover photo (or the terrible title, for that matter). This is not a Nicholas Sparks-esque, sweetsy, romance novel. No, no. This little book is a creepy, magical fairy tale.
A brief synopsis (purposely vague to avoid spoilers):
A middle-aged guy is at a funeral in his hometown. He needs a brief escape, so he drives to the street where he lived when he was a kid. He is drawn to the house at the end of the lane, so he decides to stop by. When he gets there, he begins to remember the events that occurred the year he turned seven: He befriended Lettie, who lived in that house with her mother and grandmother. She had been eleven years old for a very long time and called the duck pond behind her house an ocean. She took a him on a trip to a place where the sky was orange and where strange, evil things lurked. After the trip, his mother hired a new nanny, the nasty but beautiful Ursula, who was not who she claimed to be. Terrible events happened after Ursula arrived, and scary creatures began infesting the little boy’s world. But Lettie helped keep him safe from the evil, and great sacrifices were made in order to set his world right again.
A couple things about the book that are worth mentioning:
- Gaiman writes a lot of young-adult books (again, like Coraline). This book is billed as an adult novel, but it reads a lot like YA. That’s partly because the narrator is a seven-year-old boy. Gaiman uses his narrator to illustrate the innocence (and dumb bravery) of youth. But a seven-year-old narrator is a bit limited. I personally have nothing against a good YA book (and, in fact, really love good ones like The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games), but if you’re looking for some highbrow, adult literature, this is probably not your speed.
- The book was originally intended to be a short story. It ended up being too long for a short story, but a bit too short for a long story. It’s a mini-book. If you think a novel should be a 500-page rambling tale, then check out my review of The Interestings. That book will be more to your liking. This is only about 200 pages. It reads very quickly, which is nice, but some of the descriptions could have been beefed up.
Rating: 3/5 😧
I am not an avid reader of fantasy and don’t claim to be an expert on the genre. But I thought this was fun. There’s nothing ground-breaking about it, but it’s a little scary, a little sweet, and a little surprising. It’s also a little cheesy (the ending is a bit M. Night Shyamalan-y). For me, it was a pleasant (and pleasantly quick) departure from my usual fare.
Who should read it: my stepbrother, Drew (i.e., people who like creepy, fun things like Tim Burton movies).