“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths.”
This is my second time reading this magical little book and, while I gave it four stars both times, I have to say that I enjoyed it much more this time around.
The story tells of an unnamed seven-year-old boy who is quiet and wise beyond his years. One day, through unfortunate circumstances, he meets the Hempstocks who live down the lane from him. He befriends Lettie Hempstock, a girl a few years older than him, and she opens up an entirely new world to him…literally.
The boy is a classic unreliable narrator because, not only is he telling us a story that happened over 40 years ago, but he was just seven-years-old when it all happened in the first place. Can we believe what he says? Was it all just part of his imagination? Was Ursula Monkton simply adulthood personified? “She was power incarnate, standing in the crackling air. She was the storm, she was the lightning, she was the adult world with all its power and all its secrets and all its foolish casual cruelty.”
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is beautiful and nostalgic and enigmatic. Ultimately, it is a childhood reminiscence story wrapped up in magical realism. It explores childhood and the differences between children and adults. Gaiman tells us in no uncertain terms that adults believe they know everything, but that children may very well be wiser than they are given credit for. How much of the adults that we become are dependent upon the childhoods that we had?
“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world”