Our middle-aged narrator returns to a farm at the end of the lane he grew up on, and memories awaken inside him as he looks at the pond, of strange happenings when he was seven. His new friend Lettie, who had led him on a magical adventure where he had allowed a terrifying creature into the world, which attacked him and his family in ways he could hardly understand. Terrifying, dangerous, magical experiences and encounters that he has forgotten – and that he will forget again. But what happened to Lettie?
I love the mixture of the mundane and the magical. And you get a sense just from the title here that there isn’t just an ordinary sea at the end of the lane. Here Gaiman masterfully pulls magic into everyday life, and creates complex characters with fairytale encounters. Of his books like this (The Graveyard Book, Coraline, I would say) this was my favourite!
The story itself, of a young boy getting to know these ancient magical beings who live in a farm and generally protect the world in a homely, friendly way, and of his and their struggles against a being that comes into it, was wonderful. The creature was properly scary, malicious, and it was difficult to see how our characters was ever going to defeat her. I loved Gaiman’s drawing on the tropes of evil adults against good children: she made the most of her status as an adult, and very almost won.
The framing narrative was interesting; perhaps a little disappointing as his future is nowhere near as magical as his past. But I like this. So often our magical characters are left at the end of and adventure and we have no idea what happens next: I like exploring the psychological and actual effects of such an adventure on a real, human life. I was surprised at the start of the book and wondered how this seemingly normal character doing seemingly normal things was going to lead me into a story of magic and adventure but, of course, I should have trusted Gaiman. He did.
I’m so glad I’ve read this, and have no doubt that I will delve into it again in the near future. Highly recommend.