The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman 3.5 stars. Returning to Sussex to attend a funeral, an unnamed middle-aged man visits the site of his childhood home, knowing that the house he grew up in no longer exists. But the farm at the end lane still stands and he is drawn to the pond in the back, a pond which an extraordinary girl named Lettie Hempstock once called an ocean. In this place, the man recalls a series of events in his past, of a dark time which began forty years earlier with the suicide of his family's lodger in their stolen car.

This was only the second novel I've read by Neil Gaiman (I'm not counting his short stories or comics, etc.) but I knew enough to know about his knack for storytelling, and particularly his style of using allusion in doing so. This has made me wary about picking up his stuff, because I tend not to be drawn to stories that are more metaphysical and abstract.

Because fables and mythological motifs often feature so heavily in his work, I've come to view a lot of Gaiman's stories as modern fairy tales. Ocean definitely has that vibe to it; as such, the book's description as "terrifying" and "menacing" notwithstanding, I found it more whimsical and odd than anything else. While not a negative factor by any means, admittedly I did expect the book to be somewhat more emotionally stirring.

That said, while it's not typically my kind of book, Ocean packs a pretty good punch, especially given its relatively short length. Gaiman has a way of making me care about his characters if not so much for his themes, and not to mention he also writes beautifully. Very few authors can do what he does to me with his prose, as in the case of this book where he uses such vivid imagery to paint fantastical landscapes and their creatures in my mind's eye.