If you’re like me, and don’t often read books intended for juvenile readers, The Ocean at the End of the Lane will surprise you. If you haven’t read any of author Neil Gaiman‘s children’s lit, pick up The Ocean at the End of the Lane and give it a read; it is one of those rare novels that appeals to any reader.
Over the last 30 years, Gaiman has more than proven himself capable of crafting modern flights of fantasy. Magic in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, as in all of Gaiman’s stories, is of the oldest and darkest sort. It is portrayed as being largely – if not purely – a female gift and pursuit. Women in the Hempstock clan are designated protectors who keep shadows and spirits confined to their own worlds and out of ours.
Unlike many fantasy novels, The Ocean at the End of the Lane doesn’t put readers inside the mind of someone already familiar with magic. Instead, the audience discovers the rules governing magic as the narrator learns them. As a result, magic never feels like a comfortable presence; it is volatile, dangerous, and unknown. This strangeness remains at the end of the novel. Because the narrator can never understand magic, neither can we.
Despite being marketed toward a juvenile audience, Gaiman’s novel contains no elements that would drive away adult fantasy readers. The story is rich with memorable characters, frightening villains, and glimpses at the darkest spaces inside the human spirit. Likewise, despite its evil moments, The Ocean at the End of the Lane contains little to make it inappropriate for children. The novel is one of few books that can claim a universal appeal. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a modern fairytale for readers of all ages, and none will regret the time spent reading it.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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