Adult fiction, graphic novels, children’s books, YA — Neil Gaiman has covered a broad spectrum of the fantasy genre with his books. His first adult novel since 2005, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is well worth the wait. It also highlights an episode of Gaiman’s childhood, the suicide of a boarder, a Scientology leader, in his family’s Mini. Gaiman himself has proclaimed this his best book, and I would have to agree.
A man has returned to his childhood town for a funeral. After the funeral instead of returning to his sister’s house to greet the mourners, he finds himself in his old neighborhood, at the house at the end of the lane. There he encounters the elderly woman who lives there, and while standing near the pond on her farm, remembers the events of long ago, when he was 7 years old. To say much more would just summarize the plot of the story, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is so much more than just a story.
While this is definitely a book for adults, it’s the story of a boy. A boy who prefers books to people, loves kittens, and is tired of his little sister getting everything she wants. A boy who stumbles into a parallel world and brings back something sinister. A boy who doesn’t trust the new babysitter, who goes by the name of Ursula Monkton. A boy who just wants to do the right thing, often making things worse. A boy who accepts that Lettie Hempstock has been 11 years old for a very long time. A boy who is never given a name; names are very important.
As I said above, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s best book yet, possibly ever. It’s length, a scant 177 pages, means it can be devoured in one satisfying and scary gulp. The language is lyrical yet attainable, the childhood fears very real. This is a book that is not to be missed, which is why I’ve added it to our list of 5-Star Reads.
As an aside: Gaiman is currently on his last US book signing tour. For where he’ll be when, click here.
Nancy would love to go to the book tour and is crossing her fingers that it will work out. She writes about her 2 boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.