I have added another Neil Gaiman to my collection: The Ocean at the End of the Lane. With a few exceptions, this work feels very similar to Coraline–a better and more fantastic work. In the work before us, the protagonist is male, and he does not rely upon himself in defeating the antagonist. In many ways, he is more the observer than the mover of the plot. The antagonist is so powerful and our hero so young at only seven years of age that he must enlist the aid of the Hempstock women, who are much more than they appear.
One deduces that not judging by appearances is the major theme of the story. In the beginning, a visitor to the protagonist’s house accidentally runs over his pet kitten, which the visitor replaces with a ginger colored tomcat. The visitor thinks that he has replaced a cat with a cat, but the tomcat can never replace Fluffy in our hero’s heart. Even when he later gains another black kitten which he loves a great deal, the personality of Ocean differs from that of Fluffy.
But, interior differences matter even more in the case of Ursula Monkton, who possesses the appearance of a young and beautiful blonde. Her skill in cooking and superficially appealing demeanor hoodwink everyone at the house except our hero, who knows her secret. The atmosphere reminds one of a story from the Brothers Grimm. The fantastic abounds in a modern setting, and our villain is of the witch/evil step-mother type, which is popular with Gaiman. One is reminded of the Other Mother in Coraline.
At any rate, this 178 page novel reads quite quickly with a few exceptions. Gaiman expertly draws the reader into his world through suspense and the way the Hempstock women describe a universe far larger than our imaginations. While not perhaps his best work, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is sure to immerse you in its tale.