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 an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac – as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly’s wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark.
This is the kind of book anyone who was deeply affected by their childhood’s memories will understand. I don’t believe it’s easy or straightforward. It is a fantasy book, yes, but also a strange sort of memoir. The main character is trying to remember his childhood and some of the most important moments of his life. What we are left with is his perspective of what happened in those moments. I said ‘his perspective’ because, after all, “Different people remember things differently, and you’ll not get any two people to remember anything the same, whether they were there or not.”
That’s one of the things this book ordered me to understand. You see, it is a demanding book. It demands your attention, your understanding, your heart. It needs your care, your empathy, your own memories to fill in the gaps. This book had everything it needed from me and I would give it everything it needs over and over again.
Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers and I’m just sorry I didn’t read this book sooner. It is just another proof that our childhood memories are the most important ones; because I read Stardust many years ago and I can recall the moment I thought “This is so weird but so amazing” and that’s how you know the kind of fantasy that you’re reading is genuinely good. And Neil Gaiman does it right, every single time. He is capable of returning you to the places in your mind you belong to and if that’s not magical, then I don’t know what magic is.