The Ocen at the End of the Lane
By Neil Gaiman
256 pp. William Morrow $11.38
Memories are malleable. For the most part, they live in the recesses of our mind and come out at odd times. Sometimes they peek out their head and other times they make full appearances. But are they real? As we tuck these memories away, do we change them? Maybe the dress you wore was blue, but you remember it as red. Such is the way of memory as to not be totally trusted.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is such a memory. A middle-aged man is in town for a funeral, instead of going to the wake where he has to face unwanted questions about his current life, he heads to his childhood home to memories long buried.
As he passes the spot where the house used to be and drives further down the lane to the Hemstock farm, we’re taken back in time to when he was a child.
His mother is working more and a new nanny is living with them. A nanny who may be a nasty monster. Running away from home, he finds solace at the Hemstock farm with a girl named Lettie who promises to protect him no matter what. Together they face several challenges in order to deal with the darkness that wants to take root.
This imaginative tale is filled with stunning visuals like a pond that is more than a pond and a nanny that is truly vile. It gives a view of grown-up monsters seen through a child’s eye.
We’re not told who’s funeral or what’s going on in the man’s life, but it’s clear, he’s hit a rough patch. The dip in the past seems to help revitalize him a bit, even though the memories start to fade as soon as he leaves the farm.
Memories, even if not remembered or viewed differently as an adult, are always a part of us. It’s not always about whether or not the dress was red or blue, but how we felt in the dress.
This book can be read as a fun, dark fantasy, or as something a little more philosophical. Neil Gaiman is clearly a master of the craft.