The Ocean at the End of the Lane

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Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the End of the LaneAfter attending a funeral, a tired and somewhat confused man finds himself driving towards his childhood home. While mulling over the place where he grew up and the times he grew up in, he stops at the end of the lane, outside of the Hempstock's farmhouse...

Warning: This lovely homage to the new Neil Gaiman is immensely readable, but it might contain so-called spoilers, so it might be better if you read the wonderful book first!

There's this anticipation, when I get my hands on a new book by Neil Gaiman. I know it's because I, along with many many others, make up for a quite devoted fan-base. I laughed at its accuracy when Locus Online made their April fool's joke some years back revolve around a group of people heading out to Gaiman's private home in the U.S. on a pilgrimage. His fans, or should I say we, are notoriously dedicated.

Though, I wouldn't say I've never been disappointed... And I have no qualms about admitting that I find most of his short stories utterly forgettable, that American Gods was a good book but not as great as Neverwhere despite the hype, and that I didn't like Interworld, though I did appreciate the idea behind it. In other words, I was pretty confident that I wouldn't be enthralled by just anything because it was new and shiny and had 'Gaiman' written all over it. But then I got my hand on The Ocean at the End of the Lane and lost track of that initial thought completely.

Neil Gaiman – American Gods Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere Neil Gaiman – Interworld

A short story that couldn't contain itself in its original format, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Gaiman's literary comeback to an adult target group in eight years. It doesn't hold the tell-tale wry humor of his earlier works. It's the subtle and beautifully told memory of a man, who sits by a pond and recalls the horrific summer of his seventh year on earth. It is not nostalgic, which is perhaps what I like about it the most. It puts no glamour on memory and makes nothing prettier than it was, but instead captures the essence of a seven-year-old; the certainty of being the center of all creation, a child's fascination with stories and maggots and adventure but incomplete understanding of adult relations and their betrayals. The sure and unbreakable loyalty of a kid who's made a true friend, or the terror of losing your family despite not always liking them. It's all there, masterfully written in, as the repressed memories wash over a man one late evening:
It's at the Hempstock farm, that the man recalls his seventh summer as the one where an opal miner ran over the family cat, and replaced it with a monster. Later, the same miner killed himself in the family car, and his unhappy and regretful last thoughts called upon something stronger and older than the boy believed imaginable. It was the summer when Ursula Monkton showed up, all pink and grey and pretty, with nothing but vicious promises to make. It was when a small boy found that he had nowhere to go and no place to hide, except at the end of the lane with Lettie Hempstock and her pond that was an ocean.

In many ways a horror story, the slow and chilling sensation of something being wrong that follows you from the first page to the last, makes The Ocean at the End of the Lane a simultaneously sweet yet sad tale. And though the protagonist remains nameless and faceless, his saviors and caretakers throughout this nightmare stand tall: The three Hempstock women carry with them the mysteries of creation, the wisdom of the long-ago's. Maiden, Mother, Crone – dressing your wounds, fighting your fights and brewing you tea from before you ever knew them until long after you've forgotten.

Developed in cooperation with:

Multimediaambassaden, Mats Rytther