Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

OceanI’d read two Neil Gaiman novels before picking up Ocean, and enjoyed them both (The Graveyard Book and Stardust for those wondering). I’ll admit when Ocean first came out and I read the description it didn’t grab me in a, ‘Oh wow, this could be so cool!’ kind of way. But when my bookstore won a visit from Gaiman back in February I decided to up my Gaiman book count before he arrived, and Ocean was nice and short.

The premise of the story is simple: a man returns to his childhood home and falls into the memory of his early childhood and the odd events that took place then. I think the opening epigraph sums up perfectly what this story really captures. “I remember my own childhood vividly…I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.” – Maurice Sendak, in conversation with Art Spiegelman, The New Yorker, September 27, 1993

There is a definite transition that happens between our youthful years and our “grown-up” years, so to speak. It can be frustrating and terrifying and awesome (in the classic sense of the word) being a child. The world still holds so much joy and mystery for you but you also find yourself confronting the adults in your life who just can’t seem to understand what you do.

Gaiman’s writing is simple yet elegant and very succinctly captures the emotions of the characters only to elicit them in the reader. Ocean is somewhat of a modern fairytale but not the least bit Disney-fied. It is creepy and beautiful and wondersome all at once.

To end, I’d like to say I really like the Hempstock women. They kick ass.

Also Neil Gaiman hugged me, and it was awesome.

-Ren

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