Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Author: Neil Gaiman
Enjoyment Rating: ***
This book would be rated: PG-13 for scary situations
A man returns to his hometown in the English countryside for a funeral and decides to visit his childhood home. While there, he feels strangely compelled to stop by the farm where one of his neighbors lived. His memories of this neighbor child are hazy, but the thinks her name may have been Lettie (or was it Lottie?) Hempstock and that she may have moved to Australia (unless it was somewhere else).
Once the narrator arrives at the farm, and meets Lettie's grandmother (how could she possibly be alive after all this time?) memories start flooding back. First he remembers that they called the pond in the backyard an "ocean." Then he remembers the terrifying adventure they had the spring he was eleven years old, when otherworldy creatures found their way into the children's lives, and it was up to them to save the world.
Over the last few weeks, I've listened to three books in a row with young protagonists which don't feel like YA novels. When I first started listening to The Ocean at the End of the Lane and was introduced to the main character (unnamed throughout the novel), I expected a Gaiman story along the lines of The Graveyard Book, but instead found a story more along the lines of American Gods (okay, those are the only Neil Gaiman books I'd read before this one). In other words, the book is dark and terrifying at times, not sweetly scary.
While I enjoyed the story, and particularly enjoyed the afterword (I don't think I've ever written those words before), I did find it a little hard to follow sometimes. Maybe it's because I listened to the climax of the book while doing speedwork (with the oxygen diverting from my brain to my lungs). I think Gaiman is a great reader, but I did find minutes passing when I wasn't totally checked into the story. That's probably more my fault as a reader than Gaiman's fault as an author or narrator, but it still affected my enjoyment of the novel as a whole.