A man returns to where his childhood home used to stand, and he remembers.
In Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a man sees a pond but remembers an ocean. The story is the fantastic but detached tale of his remembered childhood.
As a child, the narrator starts finding coins in strange places and seeks the help of three strange women who live at the end of the lane. They are not exactly normal, but they take pity on the child narrator and guide him through his troubles.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane explores nostalgia, the absurdity of our world and the longing to recapture the imagination that children inevitably lose. The child narrator unquestioningly accepts potentially magical and mythological phenomena as normal; as an adult he rejects these fantasies as stories. The novel questions the legitimacy of the very stories it draws from.
The book appears, at first glance, insignificant. It is less than two hundred pages with a dark cover – the title is white and sensible, with the words floating dreamily across the dust jacket – yet the story inside blurs the line between reality and fiction.
The narrator remembers the three strange women living in a large, old-fashioned house by the pond that is actually an ocean. He remembers kittens growing from the ground like daisies.
Yet as an adult looking back on these memories, they could not be true. The pond is obviously not an ocean and cats are not plants, but he remembers everything as fact, as reality.
When I completed the book, I had to stop and consider what I had read. I relate strongly to the narrator as a boy—reading every novel he could obtain. The vagueness of the story is what I find very beautiful; it is up to the reader’s perception to understand it.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane does not fit into any particular age or genre category, but it is worth reading because it reminds its readers that sometimes it is better to believe the absurd as everyone does as children – life is more interesting that way.
Sometimes the pond at the end of a dusty lane is actually an ocean.
By Emma Remy