Neil Gaiman: The kid stays in the literature with ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’
In her review of Neil Gaiman’s new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, A.S. Byatt describes one of Gaiman’s earlier books as “for adults who remember being child readers.” The same could probably be said of everything he’s ever written; Gaiman taps into childhood as well as any living writer. As a boy, he was obsessed with books, so much so that at family gatherings “they would frisk me to make sure I didn’t have a book on me,” he laughs. But The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not only for adults who remember being children, but, perhaps more importantly, for those who’ve forgotten.
The book started as a short story for his wife, the musician Amanda Palmer, but just wouldn’t “behave itself” and eventually ballooned into a novel. It concerns an unnamed narrator who returns to his hometown, in the English countryside, for a funeral. Afterwards he’s compelled to visit the farm where a young neighbour, Lettie Hempstock, once lived with her mother and grandmother. He wanders around the property, winding up at a small duck pond, which Lettie always claimed was an ocean. It is here he begins to remember strange events that occurred four decades ago, when he was a lonely seven-year-old boy, events that began with a suicide. It’s a novel about the reliability of memory, the wonder of childhood, and what we forget, by choice or otherwise, as we grow older. Like a photo seen through an Instagram filter, the novel somehow feels both new and timeless at the same moment. (Peter J. Thompson/National Post)