Certain fairy tales have staying power. Take the Brothers Grimm, for example. Who can forget the story of “The Frog Prince” or “Rumpelstiltskin” or “Rapunzel”? Disney’s built an empire on rebooting these stories.
If you’ve ever read the original fairy tales (not the modern sanitized version), you’ll know that they’re much darker. The second sister of Cinderella, for example, slices the back of her heel off at the will of her mother to fit it into the glass slipper. The rationale? “When you are Queen you won’t have to walk any more.”
Neil Gaiman has written a masterful fairy tale in the older, darker tradition. If light can only be seen in contrast to dark, Gaiman’s light shines!
The novel centres around a young boy’s memories of life with a friend who lived down the lane-way from him. When the circumstances in his life became increasingly difficult, his friendship with Lettie Hempstock became life-giving.
As I read through this short 178 pages novel, I felt like I was reading something older—more primal—than the stories we’re used to today. It’s the sort of gripping, enduring, story that you will want to consume in one sitting.
—Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2013).