Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Where I Received the Title: Audible.com
Neil Gaiman’s long-anticipated return to adult fiction has been met with high accolades from his wide fanbase. And it is for good reason too. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is classic Gaiman, intertwining a modern setting with a dark mythos that is expected from his novels. It doesn’t hurt that Neil Gaiman is a sort of rock star in the SFnal world. Forget for a moment that he has a suave appearance, clad in his usual black coat, with a rock star wife at his side. Gaiman’s voice alone is enough to allure half of the women in England while putting their children to sleep.
His stature in the field gives him a free pass for pretty much anything he puts out. It doesn’t matter if he writes a picture book, a chapter book, or a guide to field dressing muskrats. Gaiman will sell his books to the crowds of cheering fans.
Despite the halo effect that surrounds him, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was an enjoyment to read, to say the least. It is the story of a middle-aged man who returns to his childhood neighborhood. As he ponders by the
ocean pond at the end of the street, he is drawn into a dark tragedy of his childhood. As one would expect, there is great imagery and magic that blurs the line between imagination and reality. It is filled with rich characterization, detailing the friendship the narrator has with Lettie Hempstock, an older neighborhood girl. Lettie watches over the boy as an all-knowing mentor watches over her student.
The novel appeals to both young and adult audiences, not quite a coming-of-age tale, but the story of a boy growing up. It is literary in the sense that it is more of a character study than a plot that can be easily summarized in a dust cover flap. Listening to Gaiman read his story adds to the lurid prose with his articulate, British accent.
Was The Ocean at the End of the Lane a memorable book that will stick with me for a long time? Probably not. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even list it as one of my top reads of the year. But there is something magical about Gaiman’s writing. Something that always leaves me wanting more. He is an excellent writer and this novel certainly will satisfy fans of his writing. For those who like Gaiman, pick this up. And if you haven’t read him, this is probably as good a place to start as anywhere else. I remain partial to his most popular work (next to Sandman), American Gods. And I still look forward to a defining work of his to grace the pages — a magnum opus, if you will — that packs more breadth and ties together the larger mythos of his fiction. From interviews I have heard, it sounds like this is part of Gaiman’s plan as well.