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Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

(The Verge) – The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman’s first adult novel in eight years since Anansi Boys, has climbed its way to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list. Well-known for his fantasy, children’s, and graphic novels, Gaiman returns to his adult audience with a new story that is sure to captivate and delight his readers.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told from a memory perspective of an adult who returns to his childhood home for a funeral. While back in this familiar place, he revisits some of his long forgotten childhood memories. He reflects on a specific time in his life when peculiar events had occurred after he had encountered a most unusual family, the Hempstocks. It is during this reflection that he begins to remember certain events differently than he thought they had taken place. A tale of suspense, adventure, and growing up, Ocean is one of Neil’s most captivating works, showing off his true talent as a master storyteller.
With familiar parallels to the style seen in Gaiman’s other stories, the main character here, is a regular person grounded in reality who, after some event, winds up in a world where the unbelievable and fanciful cross over. Ocean takes readers back to their childhood where certain memories have been buried and altered as we have grown up. A story that is magical and thrilling at the same time, Oceanfully encompasses all of Gaiman’s talents through his writing style of fantasy and reality. The characters, the plot, and the overall memory-tracing style will keep readers engrossed in the story and prove to be difficult to put down.

Pictured is a look at the cover of Neil Gaiman’s new book, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” Image taken from: empireonline.com

The new fantasy focuses on vivid memories of childhood which still hold a strong place in our minds, even though we may not realize it at first. Personally, I found Ocean to be an experience we can all relate to; specifically when you encounter something through your senses that instantly takes you back to a past experience. There are so many things that I come across on a daily basis, whether it be a certain smell, a visual image, or the way something feels that instantly transports me back to my childhood. Memories that I have long forgotten about are suddenly awakened through the familiar senses. Gaiman does this so well in Ocean when the main character recalls prior events to mind.
Specifically, the descriptions in the story are truly those that can only be described when one has a ‘memory sensory’ experience. Gaiman has also noted in his recent book tour, that some of the memories and elements from the book were picked from his own personal ones.
Gaiman is quite the craftsman when recalling certain elements of the past…One way that he exceptionally does this is through descriptions of the food. So many delightful things we taste from our childhood can only be described in the most exquisite detail. I often found myself craving the food he describes and even remembering some of my personal favorite childhood snacks. He also describes certain events in details such as emotional responses to particular instances and conveying exactly how the character feels as the result of something that transpired; whether it was a big moment or something much smaller in his past.
We all have those moments where we remember exactly how we felt whether it was happy, sad, or frightened. The detail Gaiman gives to these emotions makes the story truly read much like a memory account, and it becomes easy to associate with.
As a fellow writer, I love how Gaiman is able to take elements of fantasy and yet keep them grounded somewhat in reality. It is one of the markings of his style that makes him such a unique writer.
The only thing that I was disappointed with was the length of the story. The book was much shorter than some of Gaiman’s other novels, and even though the it accomplished its goal and the plot was fully developed, I was simply bummed it was over so fast. It’s a quick read that some readers may even finish in one sitting, depending on how hooked you get. But overall, I was greatly impressed and certainly enjoyed every minute of it. The Ocean at the End of the Lane continues to show Gaiman’s true talent as a modern fantasy writer. While it reads somewhat like a children’s adventure, Ocean is so much more than that…especially as it takes on the humanly challenge of growing up.
A look at the author of the fantasy novel, Neil Gaiman. Image taken from: brainpickings.org