Neil Gaiman has an incredible imagination. Let that be said.
In The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, he has given us a story, that at first glance, can be taken as a fantastical adventure in which a young boy faces powers of both good and evil during a painful time in his life. The story seems a sort of fairy tale memory that is told in retrospect when a man returns to his childhood home for a family funeral. As he wanders down the road from his childhood home and comes to the land that belonged to the neighboring family, he returns to a particularly trying time when his parents took in boarders, his mother was forced to return to work, and a strange and evil nanny came to stay. The young boy takes refuge in a friendship with a girl who lives on a neighboring farm. The friendship takes on magical elements that spiral into the mystical and fantastic. In the process, the young boy learns hard truths about adults and their human frailties, faith and trust in friends and family, and courage in facing evil.
Hard lessons are learned that cave in the 'pillars' that have supported his young life. We can't always count on our parents to keep us safe, sometimes trusted adults don't live up to our expectations, learning to trust again is a necessity to surviving psychologically, friends sometimes go away, sometimes we do things when we're afraid that we regret, sometimes it takes great bravery to face our fears.
This is a book that could easily be read as an archetypal take on the fairy tale, but it can also be picked apart and thought about on much deeper levels ... I will admit that it spooked me and made me wonder about the adults that I remember interacting with in my neighborhood when I was very young. My experience of their lives was just so very naive and, while I never experienced true evil or danger, there were some close encounters with sickness and eccentricity in some neighbors that I was reminded of while reading this book.
Neil Gaiman intrigues me. Let that be said.