Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

Today I'm looking at another Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This is a short novel but as typical of Gaiman's work, it's intensely packed with emotions and philosophy and I thought it was a really good read. If you've read anything else by Gaiman and enjoyed it, this will definitely be worth your time. I don't know if I can really put my finger on why this book, and so much of Gaiman's other writings, make some sort of connection on an emotional level, but it's definitely part of Gaiman's talent and skill as a writer.

The story is set within the framing device of a man returning to his old neighborhood in Sussex, England after a funeral and visiting a farmhouse at the end of the lane inhabited by the mysterious Hempstock women. He hasn't thought of the Hempstocks in years, but slowly the memories come back and we go into events when the main character was seven years old. It all began when an opal miner from South Africa who lodged with his family committed suicide in their car. Afterwards money starts appearing mysteriously all over the neighborhood, including a shilling piece appearing lodged in his throat while he sleeps. So our main character takes a trip down the lane to visit the Hempstocks, who reveal that some...thing from outside our own reality has decided to interfere. With the aid of the Hempstocks, including eleven year old Lettie, the main character discovers exactly what sort of things exist just beyond realms of our understanding.

I will say the scale of this story is very, very small. I'm pretty sure the events take place over the course of a week at most so it's very fast-paced as a novel and a lot smaller in scope than some of the other books that I've read. Despite its brevity I felt like there was something really deep to this book which, as I said, I can't really quantify. Gaiman does do a very good job of encapsulating the fears of childhood, especially the fear that adult authorities won't be willing to listen or believe you when you bring concerns to them. If there's one thing this book does well, it's encapsulate those feelings of fear and powerlessness in childhood.

As short as this book is, I think it's worth the read. If you're familiar with Gaiman's work, this will be more of the same stuff that we've come to love, and if you're unfamiliar this is as good a place to start reading as anywhere else.

- Kalpar

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