Though very well written, I am afraid The Ocean at the End of the Lane did not entice me the way other Gaiman books have in the past. The plot involves a young boy who, after the death of his family’s tenant, meets a family of women at the end of a lane. Before long, he discovers that these women are more than they seem, and when they suspect an evil entity has entered the world, the youngest, Lettie, seeks to contain the unwanted presence. Unfortunately, the creature is more resourceful than the eleven-year-old Lettie suspected, and our narrator, the boy, suffers for her misstep.
Though I would rate this amongst Gaiman’s best in terms of prose, the story itself failed to deliver any real emotional impact. The protagonists were likable, but I would not necessarily describe them as charismatic. The villain of the story, while in human form, proved the most interesting, but that was all too brief a portion of the book. While not in human form, she was difficult to process.
Gaiman wrote an entertaining tale, but I must wonder if the first-person narration hindered the overall story to a degree. We only got our information from the narrator’s perspective, and because he did not truly understand what unfolded before his eyes, we received only a portion of the happenings. Because of the fantasy aspect of this book, I believe a different perspective may have freed the more magical elements for the reader to enjoy. After all, Gaiman is amid the best at making fantasy feel real.
I understand that Gaiman wanted to explore the disconnect between the child’s world and the adult’s, but the story should not suffer as a result. In the end, we have far more questions than answers, and while that is not always a bad thing, in this case, it weakened the book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is, from a craft standpoint, a beautifully written story, but in terms of an engaging read, it lacked the charm of previous Gaiman works.