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
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The only Gaiman I've read is American Gods and I thought it was okay (I probably would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been so hyped before I read it). I've heard nothing but great things about this book, too, and I actually bought a copy - I just need to pick it up!ReplyDelete
I am putting off American Gods because it is so long and because I know it is supposed to be his masterpiece. I will give it a chance seeing as I liked this one so much, but maybe not anytime soon....Delete
I'm with you in that I've loved some of his work - The Graveyard Book, Good Omens with Terry Pratchett etc - but not been that fussed about others. I must give this one a try though.ReplyDelete
I'll have to try Good Omens, thanks for the recommendation :)Delete
What a great review! I don't consider myself much of a Gaiman fan either (I also loved Stardust and was indifferent to Neverwhere) but have this one on my shelf since the reviews are so overwhelmingly positive. I'm excited to read it now!ReplyDelete
Stardust was so good, wasn't it? Seeing as we agree on that one, hopefully you'll enjoy Ocean too.Delete
This is good to hear. I have this next in line on my pile so I'm so ecstatic that you loved it. This will be my first Gaiman book though so keeping my fingers crossed that it will be the start of a great love affair.ReplyDelete
Oh, I hope you love it as much as I did!Delete
It actually made me so happy to see that you liked a Neil Gaiman book :) Maybe it's because it gives hope for me as well. I think the next book by him I will try will be American Gods, as the premise of this one sounds the most exciting. I will not fall into the trap of hype anymore since my expectations are quite low after Neverwhere.ReplyDelete
I keep putting off reading American Gods, although I do have a copy. I know it's supposed to be his masterpiece and I'm scared I won't like it!Delete
Great review for a wonderful book. I loved every second of this book, and was sorry to see it end, even though the end was kind of perfection. I've yet to read a negative review of this book, and I hope I never do.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you loved it too :)Delete
YAY! I'm so glad you loved this one as much as I did! I'm very hit and miss with Gaiman for the reasons you mentioned here. Hurrah for a big winner!ReplyDelete
It was awesome, wasn't it :)Delete
I haven't read any Gaiman yet. I'm kind of late to the party and didn't know where to start. But now I guess this would be a good book to start with. Great review!ReplyDelete
I'm probably the only person who hasn't read a Neil Gaiman book. Having heard just as much disappointment as I loved over The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I'll be trying either Neverwhere or American Gods eventually. Thanks for the review!ReplyDelete
I've never read any Gaiman and I'm not certain I want to in case I'm disappointed by the hype. But then, that many people can't be wrong...One day :) Sounds like this was a make not a break!ReplyDelete
It's nice to hear how much you loved it bearing in mind you were not necessarily a huge fan going in to it. I've never read him either though I bought one of his earlier books to try one day.ReplyDelete
That's exactly my reaction too. I didn't like Coraline much, the only other Gaiman book I read but this one, I loved!ReplyDelete
Oh oh oh! I'm so happy to hear (see?) you say this! I bought it for a friend who absolutely adored it, but I can take or leave Neil Gaiman so I wasn't sure whether to take the plunge or not. Eventually somebody bought ME it as a present, so I do own it.... but YAY! :DReplyDelete
I don't really understand the fuss with Neverwhere. It's a very average book at best (or so I thought) and I just didn't 'get it.' Apparently this book is different though!
I was very impressed. For me, this work is, without doubt, first-rate fantasy and escapist fiction...and very fine literature, as well. It delivers a highly imaginative, fabulous and fascinating fable that envelops, and attempts to explain, everything in the space-time continuum. Yes, it's that ambitious! It had me hooked from the first to the last page. Simply put: it is an incredible gem of a novel.ReplyDelete
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