Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Can a pond be an ocean? Can a story be right at one time and wrong at another? I have been dreaming about oceans lately, hearing the waves hitting on the shore and the call of seagulls. So I picked up The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This is my second time reading the book, and I kept wondering why I didn’t appreciate the book the first time around. Oh, it is a sad book that touches on difficult subjects like abuse and death and dying. But it couldn’t be that then. I have always liked books that are not afraid to ask about the awkward bits that are part of life. Maybe some books have their time and place, and this one had a slot with my name on here and now.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a dreamy childhood story; that feeling you get when you think of the late summers and the fall rains when you were seven years old, as is our main character. He is thrown into a world where lines between places are blurred, and he has to face “demons” to survive. This story is about losing innocence and finding out that people can be nasty, ignorant, blinded by their anger or views, and of course about survival. Everything starts as a man kills himself and by that invites a creature beyond this world into ours, who attaches itself to our hero. But luckily, he doesn’t have to face such a fate on his own. He has Lettie Hempstock with him, an eleven-year-old girl with a pond as big as an ocean.

I’m not sure how to handle this book and the subjects it touches. Death, dying, and killing oneself are already big issues to take on, but to add family abuse and neglect makes this one feel like too much. Maybe the first time around, I couldn’t face the abuse part and the fact that there is still a longing to be loved and cared for by the same people. But so it is. Anyone who has had childhood trauma knows that hating those who have inflicted it is hard. A child is tied to their parents and family and is “programmed” to love them for survival. That makes it all so much more complicated. It would be easier for the body and the mind to just hate, but no. I think Neil Gaiman managed to give this weird imbalance to his story. A story that reads like a dream, as is always the case with Gaiman’s works.

There are nasty things in the world, but as the story points out, they are victims on their own, falling into the trap of their past, future, and narrow views and obsessions. But it matters how we deal with them. I just wish we all had Lettie Hempstock to help us through the dark times.

Thank you for reading, and please shut your eyes and listen to the waves. Have a beautiful day ❤

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