Gaiman, Neil: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)

Thank you, to my sister-in-law for giving me a copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

In December, right before I turned seven my family moved from Australia to Norway. One of my memories tied to that move is stepping outside the plane into the middle of Norwegian winter. Moving was not something I wanted, and winter did not help.

Soon I was driving slowly, bumpily, down a narrow lane with brambles and briar roses on each side, wherever the edge was not a stand of hazels or a wild hedgerow. It felt like I had driven back in time. That lane was how I remembered it, when nothing else was.

Memory can be triggered by scent, sound and sight. All of a sudden you find yourself re-visiting a time you had forgotten. Neurons spark neurons and whatever filing system you have going for you opens a memory file.

If you’d asked me an hour before, I would have said no, I did not remember the way. I do not even think I would have remembered Lettie Hempstock’s name. But standing in the hallway, it was all coming back to me. Memories were waiting at the edges of things, beckoning to me. Had you told me that I was seven again, I might have half believed you, for a moment.

As others have mentioned, we never discover what the name of the main character is. For the most part he is called “the boy”, and that is how I think of him. Neil Gaiman’s statement that the story is meant for adults fits my feeling while reading the book. There is enough terror (not violent) for a younger audience to enjoy it as well.

At seven years of age, children have little say in their lives. Moving to Norway was not my choice. Nor does the boy have much influence on his own life. There are a few episodes that illustrate this. To me, the episode with the cat stands out the most. Utter disregard of the possibility that the boy might be devastated shocked me. Yet, looking back at my own life, children were presumably fine with whatever the adults chose. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, adults are judged more believable than the boy. So it is when I look around at the parts of the world I have encountered. My Asperger brain is completely baffled by this phenomenon. When the boy’s enemy states

“And what can you say to her that will make any difference? She backs up your father in everything, doesn’t she.”

I am reminded of many family situations that have crossed my life-path. No matter what one parent does or says, they have the backing of the other. Utterly incomprehensible.

Being without power to decide anything about their lives is something children come to semi-accept. At the same time there is a continuous battle between adults and children to have the ability to decide. We see some of that in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The boy does not give in to the powers that be, although it might, at first, seem that way to the adults.

The Hempstock women became a safe haven for the boy. For me that is hilarious because some of the most dangerous episodes happen while together with one of them. But they sought to protect him and make his life safer by fighting for him with the means at their disposal. These means aren’t exactly regular ones.

I loved the Hempstock women. I want to be like the Hempstock women.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Ocean at the End of the Lane can be found at biblio.com


Adaptations:


Trivia:


Translations:

2 thoughts on “Gaiman, Neil: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)”

  1. Wow, moving from Australia to Norway must’ve been quite a change! Especially moving from an Australian summer to a Norwegian winter. Do you still have any Aussie accent?

    And the book sounds thought-provoking! How we grapple with powerlessness and finding ways to gain empowerment.

    Like

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