Friday, July 5, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman



There are so many cliche things I could say about this book and frankly, I plan on saying all of them. This will be a spoiler free review, because, like most of the reviews of this latest Gaiman masterpiece, the plot doesn't even need to be talked about in order to talk about why this book is so beautiful. If you want to know what the story's about, I'll tell you that it's the story of a man who revisits the lane that he grew up on while attending a funeral and remembers the events of his childhood as an adult does, but with the gift of a moment of clarity that allows him a piece of how his childhood self once saw the events. As with all Gaiman books, there's a bit of magic to this tale, yet it's a magic that he makes us wonder for a second if it may exist in our own lives somewhere behind a door that we've closed.

As other reviewers have said, this is indeed a book that's much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. That's something that I didn't really understand and thought "oh there's THAT saying again" until I actually read this slim book for myself. When I closed the back cover though, I thought to myself "wow, that was one hell of a big story"...all in under 200 pages. I found myself thinking while I was reading this book that we're being gifted by seeing one of the world's greatest story tellers write his canon before our eyes. And that really is a gift. With each Gaiman book that's released, we're given another little treasure and this is certainly one to join it's brothers and sisters.

As he's shared, and as Amanda Palmer shared on her beautiful blog post, this is a really personal book to Neil Gaiman and I think that's why it had an extra touch of magic to it. You can just feel how special this book is when you read it. Neil makes it clear in the acknowledgements at the end of the book that the family in this book is not his own, yet the reader has to wonder how much of this book comes from some personal experience. I suppose all stories do.

What this book does is capture a childhood that is swept up in pain and trauma and doused in a bit of magic as it's saving grace. Isn't that so much of what childhood is? It really got me thinking as to just how resilient we all are as children. We all experience some pretty traumatic things during those ages. We see the things we're not supposed to see because people think we're not paying attention. Things are done to children because they don't know any better. And I'm not making any excuses for those things being done....ever. Yet children so often recover from those things. Or they take them with them as part of who they are. Sometimes in negative ways, sometimes in positive ways. But they persevere because what other choice is there.

I couldn't say if this is my favorite Neil Gaiman book or if it's the worst Gaiman book I've ever read. Ok...I can safely say it's not the worst Gaiman book I've read. But every book by Neil stands on it's own, yet they stand so prettily together too, don't they? Is it better than American Gods? Well it's so different than American Gods....yet it's so obviously written by the same man. And that's why I love Neil Gaiman so much. Because he brings you home, as Ana mentioned in her review. You can read a book of his, and you just feel the Neil-ness of it and it feels right. There are so few authors that do that for me, yet I expect that Neil will be doing it for a long, long time.

11 comments:

Beth F said...

I just skimmed because I really want to read this. I think I'm going to listen to the audio.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I'm in the process of reading this book to my sister -- and reading it myself for the first time as well -- and we're both afraid that it won't live up to the hype in the end. I know that probably won't happen, but eek! I love Neil Gaiman so much and have yearned for this book for so long!

Amanda said...

Heehee, well I admit, I wasn't a fan of American Gods at all, and have never read anything else of Gaiman's adult fiction. I was really worried I wouldn't like this one, but I finished it yesterday and I really liked it. So yay!

Andi said...

LOVED IT. It's definitely my fave Neil Gaiman offering so far, but then again his work is more hit and miss for me. I detested American Gods but I've loved his more whimsical books like The Graveyard Book and Coraline.

Daphne said...

We went to see him speak in San Francisco and read from the book, a few weeks ago. The boy called dibs on reading it first and he's about half way through. I can't wait to read it! Also he's terrific in person OF COURSE!

Vasilly said...

I love the first sentence of this post! This is a really good book and I also found myself wondering if it was better than A.G. I don't think so since A.G. has my heart but it's so different and still a Gaiman book. Great post, Chris!

Melanie said...

read it, loved it, meeting Gaiman on the 10th!

Kailana said...

I have this on audio thanks to my most recent Audible credit, but I think I really should buy it, too. I imagine I will before the day is out. I have a love/hate relationship with Gaiman's books but this sounds like it could be one of the love times. I hope so!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I think you said it perfectly when you said his work is so incredibly different, but it's all so very Neil. This one is different from his other novels and yet you know from the first pages that it's him.

Susan said...

I just read Ana's review, so I know what you mean by feeling like home with him. That's the feeling I get with Charles de Lint or Stephen King, it's something in their images, or a trick of their phrasing, that is them. I love it when I find it, it's rare enough in authors I like. I'm thrilled both you and Ana saw it in this book. I'm hoping to get it soon from the library, which didn't have it yet when I requested it. I'm really anxious to see what he does with this story.

Great review, Chris!!

Beth F said...

I just *loved* this. Magical.