Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
Neil Gaiman is one of those authors who truly baffles me, how in the world he comes up with his tales I'll never know. Genre defying and utterly brilliant, Ocean at the End of the Lane is yet another wonderful book from a unique author.
Gaiman, as I'm sure you know, is a master storyteller. What I found so wonderful about Ocean at the End of the Lane is that it's almost a children's book for adults. Ocean has that lyrical quality that is often so present in fairy tales and yet sadly lacking in 'adult fiction'; it's comforting and yet melancholic, innocent and yet sharply aware.
Whilst it might take some time to catch up with the rhythm of Ocean you'll be glad you did and you'll soon be swept away in Gaiman's absorbing narrative. A difficult book to pin down and a harder one to explain, Gaiman taps in to childhood with effortless ease and encounters magic, fights monsters and questions reality.
If you've never read a Gaiman (a genre in his own right, surely?) or not sure if his books are for you, I would urge you to delve into the Ocean at the End of the Lane and discover what you've been missing.