x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Book review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane strangely gripping

A man's death releases evil forces that requires the actions of a heroic, seven-year-old boy in this dark fairytale

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman
Headline

For those familiar with Neil Gaiman's Coraline, a story in which a little girl becomes trapped in a house identical to her own except that her mother has black buttons for eyes, his latest dark fairytale, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, will make perfect sense.

The hero, a friendless seven-year old boy, meets a strangely knowing 11-year-old girl, her mother and grandmother, who live in an old-fashioned farm at the bottom of his road after a lodger who is staying with the boy's family commits suicide.

The man's death releases evil forces that threaten the fabric of the boy's family and his very life in this scary story, made all the more frightening by its childlike narrative perspective.

Gaiman's assured and observant writing helps the reader to suspend any sense of disbelief as the forces of nature and eternal knowledge take on a pitiless, ancient evil.

Not that it is ever expressed in such straightforward terms. Strangely gripping stuff.

cdight@thenational.ae