Sunday, 10 November 2013
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I write this review as someone who is not a Neil Gaiman fan. I loved Stardust (although that is probably more to do with the brilliant film version) and The Graveyard Book, thought that Coraline and Neverwhere were just OK and to be honest, didn't like Anansi Boys at all. I think Neil Gaiman has wonderful ideas but his writing has always been hit and miss for me. I wasn't going to try Ocean at the End of the Lane, but it's been getting so much hype that I decided to give Gaiman one more chance. This was going to be a make or break book; if I didn't like it, I was prepared to give up and admit that Gaiman just isn't for me.
But I did like in; it fact I more than liked it, I loved it. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the first Neil Gaiman book I have sped through, completely enchanted and desperate to find out what would happen next. It's the story of a man who has returned to his home town for a funeral, and who ends up visiting the farm where he met Lettie Hempstead, her mother and her grandmother. As soon as he reaches the property, the memories start flooding back, starting with the suicide of a lodger staying at his house. This suicide allows dark creatures to enter the world, who want to destroy him and his family. The only people who can help are the Hempsteads, who claim that the pond in their garden is really an ocean, and that they are as old as the Big Bang itself.
What I loved most about The Ocean at the End of the Lane was the atmosphere and nostalgia of the book. I am just about old enough to look back on my childhood fondly and miss some of the simple pleasures and imaginations of being young. Gaiman captures this feeling perfectly; even when something bad is happening in the book, there's this sense of childhood and time, and having the freedom to check out stacks of books from the library and devour them in your bedroom. It's a bittersweet portrayal of childhood memories and it's one that certainly worked for me.
I also enjoyed the magical elements of the story. They are kept mysterious and the line between what actually happened and what was distorted by memory or imagined is deliberately kept blurred. The ending fit in with this theme and was perfectly bittersweet. As with all Gaiman books, the rather ordinary main character is allowed his moment to shine and there's the theme of doing the right thing, even if it isn't the easy thing, and of ordinary people finding courage within themselves.
To be honest, it's hard to put into words exactly what I loved so much about this book, as it was more of a feeling than anything logical. The book just enchanted me, swept me away and left me with a big smile on my face and a contented feeling inside. It's short and bittersweet and I would highly recommend it, even if you think Gaiman isn't for you.
Source: Library (although I will be buying my own copy).
First Published: 2013
Score: 5 out of 5