BY LILLY METCALFE
Childhood memories are sometimes unpleasant to remember, but in Neil Gaiman’s novel “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” the worst of childhood memories are turned into a compelling fantasy story.
The novel’s setting is in Sussex, England. The main character, who remains nameless, returns to his hometown to attend a funeral. He feels drawn to his childhood home and he visits an old neighbor that lived at the end of the lane. At their house lies a pond that he and his friend Lettie Hempstock called the ocean. Looking out at the pond, he recalls repressed memories of a wild three-week spring vacation when he was seven.
The main character is characterized as someone who is introverted and prefers the company of books to that of other human beings. He is currently a poor artist who is divorced and all alone. His seven-year-old self was not much different, as he had no friends and was distant with his family.
The main character is actually the author Neil Gaiman, and the novel was a commentary on his own childhood living in a scientology community. The novel is not an autobiography, but is based on the author’s past. He wrote the novel for his wife Amanda “who wanted to know,” as he said on the dedication page.
It is hard to interpret what things Gaiman symbolized and what are the actual events that happened because the childhood memories are obscured by the story’s fantasy element. That may be what he wanted to do—to make readers question what to believe.
The writing style is simple, but the concepts are for adults. It contains topics of broken families, death and growing up, all of which are important lessons to reflect upon, which is what the main character does throughout the novel.
Neil Gaiman writes both children and adult novels. Two familiar books to most people are “The Graveyard Book” and “Coraline,” which both display how spooky Gaiman’s imagination is and his style of fiction.
The execution of the novel was well done. It flowed very well and had an interesting story line. The fantasy aspect in an adult novel is not usually done by authors, especially those who are trying to express major topics or something about their personal lives. The fantasy may throw people off, but it can be interpreted as just childhood imagination to help cope with traumatic events that happened to the main character.
The Flyer gives “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” 8/10 stars.