Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil effin’ Gaiman!!!
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins Publisher)
Type: Hardcover; 181 p.
Keywords: lovely, eerie, childhood, yummy food
Why? Neil. Gaiman.
My first reaction when picking up this book was how…thin it was. When I heard about Gaiman’s new novel I was thinking, novel, Anansi Boys/American Gods size epic and I admit I was a tad disappointed. Of course, I shouldn’t have doubted the power of the Gaiman, for not only did he *not* disappoint me, but the book was beyond what I expected.
I guess in a way I can see why some people I on Goodreads were disappointed. Ocean at the End of the Lane is a quiet haunting book, but simple in scale compared to American Gods or Neverwhere. The worldbuilding and mythology in this book is just as detailed and *real* as its predecessors. I finished the book yesterday, and I still can’t wrap my head around it and jot down how I feel about it, because oddly enough I felt so much after finishing it. So here are some words/emotions I strongly felt while reading and I’ll try and associate it with scenes from the book. Spoilers most likely abound.
Solitude. The story is told by a middle-aged man recalling his childhood and the magical events that happened. He was a quiet, solitary boy so the narrative voice really set the tone of the story. The writing is so delicate I felt the solitude of this boy with his books and solo adventures of exploring the farmlands.
Haunting. Come on, it’s Gaiman. Ursula Monkton freaked me out. And the scene with the boy and his father. I remember trying to read faster because I was horrified and wanted to get it over with.
I flailed with my hands, trying to find something to hold on to, but there was nothing to grab, only the slippery sides of the bath I’d bathed in for the last two years. (I had read many books in that bath. It was one of my safe places. And now, I had no doubt, I was going to die there.)
Now he pushed me down again, but fear of death gives us strength; my hands and my teeth were clamped to his tie, and he could not break his grip on them without hitting me.
My father did not hit me.
This gave me chills. And the most haunting part of this scene is that even though old Mrs. Hempstock “snips” that scene away so that the father doesn’t remember or even do it (or does he?), the boy remembers and I think it forever changes the relationship between the two afterwards.
Childhood. Like my other fav Neil Gaiman book, The Graveyard Book Ocean has themes of childhood innocence and its loss The scene where the boy goes into the ocean and understands *everything*, only to have it taken away and forgotten, just screams how it feels like to lose childhood innocence.
Timeless. Maybe because the story is told through the man’s childhood memories, but the book does have a sense of timelessness. And of course the 3 ladies are timeless themselves.
Foodie. Oh my god, the food described in this book! I’m almost salivating thinking of it!
Verdict: Although tiny in size, this book made such a huge impact on me emotionally. I remember closing the book on the BART train and sighing over all the feels I had. I would love to read this book again in winter with a blanket and a nice hot tea/cocoa to keep me company. I *love* Neil Gaiman’s bigger works like Neverwhere and American Gods, but I think it’s the smaller, somber pieces like The Graveyard Book and now The Ocean at the End of the Lane that really resonate with me. This book should not be missed.