Neil Gaiman's highly anticipated new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, came out this week. It's a slim volume (178 pages) containing a beautifully told fairy tale for adults.
The protagonist, an unnamed narrator, begins the book as a 40-something-ish man attending a funeral. He leaves the funeral to wander down the lane where he grew up, and ends up sitting next to a pond remembering the bulk of the story of the book. In the framed tale, he is a seven-year-old boy who encounters death, suicide, dangerous fantastical creatures, adultery, and a witchy set of three women who live in the farmhouse at the end of the lane from his house. You can see why this is a story for adults, despite its fairy tale dip into the fantastic.
It was nice to slip back into the familiar warm bath of mellifluous prose that Mr. Gaiman weaves on the page. The writing, the themes, and even the mood of the settings and fantastical characters are all like old friends you are happy to see again and visit with. As with most of Mr. Gaiman's shorter fiction, I wish it was longer simply because I want the visit to last.
The Hempstock family (whose last name will be familiar to regular readers of Gaiman's works) provide much of the mystical and mythic aspects to the story. We have encountered these three before several times with different names. The protagonist's innocent perspective of all the goings-on in the book is delightful as well - he reminded me of the protagonist of The Graveyard Book. Some of the darker aspects of the story were hard to read mainly because of the innocent viewpoint through which they were experienced and narrated.
Overall, this is an excellent addition to the Gaiman canon. Pick up a copy and enjoy visiting with old friends.