“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
I don’t know how to begin to review this book. Not because I didn’t like it, quite the opposite. But The Ocean at the End of the Lane is such a dreamlike, nostalgic book, that it is hard to explain without experiencing it.
This is a book about childhood, about the mystery, innocence, and wonder of those days. The narrator is a grown man remembering his life as a boy, when he lived near the house at the end of the lane. He remembers fantastical stories of things that are not quite of this world, things that could be just his wild and young imagination, and yet… seem too real to be just that. Too dark and extraordinary to be mere child’s play.
“All monsters are scared. That’s why they’re monsters. (…) Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”
The book reads like a story by the campfire, and you can feel the nostalgia in almost every word of it. We might not have gone to this other world between worlds when we were kids, but we can still relate to what being a child is about. The innocence, the ignorance, the self-importance, the feeling that the world is so unfathomable and yet wonderful, how everything might just be within our reach. And how all that can be shattered in the blink of an eye, and how the world is a terrifying and hard place, and dark things wait just around the corner, in the fringe of your eyesight. Or they do near the end of the lane anyway.
The whole story has an eerie feeling to it. The setting is somewhat creepy, and very lonely, yet hauntingly beautiful. I can’t even begin to fathom how the author does it, but you are left longing for a time long gone, while you’ve never experience any of this.
“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about dreams, about what is real and what’s not, about things that trickle from the edges of this so called reality, about things that every kid knows yet the adults seem to have forgotten. It’s about fear, and helplessness, hope, strength, survival. And memories. Specially memories.
It is a Gaiman book. A very sad, nostalgic book, and one I recommend to everyone.
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.
His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is the ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.