PAGE COUNT: 237 PAGES
“I remember my own childhood vividly…I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.”
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.
The epigraph sets the stage for this novel perfectly and readies you for the magical thrills you will encounter in the next pages.
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is an easy book to love. You will be hooked from the first page into this strange yet familiar memory the anonymous protagonist finds himself thrown into. A memory he had forgotten about entirely. Filled with magic, wonder, the supernatural and fear.
“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”
The prose in the book leads to many points like this, which allow the reader to draw comparisons to their own childhood. Moments lost in time much like the moments in this novel. This quote really embodies and alludes to the exploratory nature of a child’s mind and allows the reader to feel their own nostalgia. I was often traveling into my childhood adventures while reading this book.
“She was also an adult, and when adults fight children, adults always win.”
The main character is one who enjoys the company of books. Which is one of the reasons I believe, he so willingly goes along with the adventures of Lettie who at first is a virtual stranger. The experiences must seem like the tales in his books. Another factor I related to in this story as I read from very early on in my childhood, often daydreaming about the adventures in my novels.
“Nothing’s ever the same,” she said. “Be it a second later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and roiling. And people change as much as oceans.”
Personally, I’m a sucker for oceans as symbolism and I really felt that Lettie’s ‘Ocean’ was a metaphor for knowledge. The ocean may literally be knowledge as there is a supernatural element to this book. As with all books, I’m sure each reader has their own ideas and interpretations concerning what the Ocean is and what it represents.
“Once you’ve been around for a bit, you get to know stuff.”
I kicked a stone. “By ‘a bit’ do you mean ‘a really long time’?”
“How old are you, really?” I asked.
I thought for a bit. Then I asked, “How long have you been eleven for?”
She smiled at me.”
Lettie is a brilliant character, she has earned her place in my top characters list undoubtedly. The eleven-year-old girl with a wisdom and depth beyond her years and our main characters first real friend. Her character is as much a mystery to us as it is to the narrator and one that I wish had her own novel. She is surely a metaphor for the world being infinitely magical and beyond our understanding. Neil captures this so beautifully and clearly in Lettie’s character.
“That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together.”
Lettie Hempstock’s family are equally as intriguing, they seem to give the impression they know all there is in the world and also kick some serious ass. I would like to adopt both of them, please. I believe the fact that Old Mrs. Hempstock appears to guide the characters when they are lost might be Neil’s cheeky way of saying we should not underestimate the knowledge of our elders.
“I could have ruled worlds, but I followed you, and I waited, and I had patience. I knew that sooner or later the bounds would loosen, that I would walk the true Earth, beneath the Sun of Heaven.”
When the villain has epic speeches like this, you know they are a worthy one. Like everything else in The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, I adored our antagonist. One who still manages to elicit pity from the reader. I cannot say much without spoiling the plot, but rest assured. Much like the all of this novel she is perfect.
I am now listening to the Audiobook of this novel to hear its perfect prose spoken by Neil himself. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are on the fence about it allow me to push you over into reading it… Now