Review: Ocean at the End of the Lane

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 this 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 defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang…

My copy of Neil Gaiman’s latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, has actually been touched by the author. Squee! I went to a pre-release book signing and met the man. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited. So far, doesn’t look like any of the genius has rubbed off yet though. Boo.

The book itself… Well…

I finished it on a train and it took a lot not to cry. The start reminded me of Iain Banks in character, then it becomes a children’s book. The best kind of children’s book, that reminds you of your own childhood but also makes you reinterpret that memory, and then gives you a few moments to feel really uncomfortable about it. I want to give examples, but that would ruin the glorious surprise of those moments. It reinforced the innocence of childhood but also the innocence of adulthood – all the things we don’t remember, don’t realise, don’t know.

The imagery is incredibly visceral. A friend referenced a section in a message to me, and it took me a full ten minutes to realise that it was from the book because I was positive that it was something I had experienced or at least seen. It was difficult to believe that mere words can elicit such nausea, but it did. That’s not to say a book has never made me feel that way before – but it always takes me by surprise.

Though you can sense the depth of meaning throughout, it was also a damn good adventure/ fantasy story. A quick, exciting read, a long emotional recovery.

Glorious. Read it (and everything else Neil has ever written).


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