The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I get a LOT of emails. Way too many emails. Emails from online retailers, emails from all of my favorite stores, emails from flash sale websites, and daily newsletter emails. All kinds of newsletter emails. Emails with news about wine, craft beer, shopping and clothing trends, hot new restaurants: you name it – I get it. If you haven’t guessed by now, I also get emails about books. I received one at the end of December/beginning of January that listed top picks of books from 2013. I went through that list and selected a bunch to add to my wishlist.
After taking a while to read Longbourn, I really wanted something that wouldn’t take me forever to get through. Armed with the gift card I’d received for Christmas, I downloaded 5 books to my Nook (4 from said “best of” list, 1 at the recommendation of a friend). Then, I chose the shortest book out of these to read. That book was The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Nail Gaiman.
Ocean is the story about of a middle-aged man who has returned to his childhood hometown to attend a funeral. While driving towards where his home used to be, he is drawn to the pond near the home of a childhood friend that he hasn’t thought of in years. As he visits her home, he starts to remember a fantastical occurrence from his childhood; something he has buried deep in his memories. “Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good” (p. 9). The reader is then whisked to back to when the unnamed narrator is seven years and meets Lettie Hempstock, her mother and grandmother.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane was an interesting book to say the least. I don’t know if I’d necessarily classify it as a novel. It almost seems to work better under the category of short story (it’s only about 150 pages long). In fact, if you read the acknowledgements, Gaiman admits that the book started off as a short story. I didn’t know much about the author before picking up Ocean, however when I was looking up more about him, I realized I was quite familiar with a few of his other books (for example Coraline and Stardust). I wish I had known this going into Ocean because I felt as though I would have been better prepared for the fantastical elements of the story. At first, I was rather thrown off by them, but eventually just took the magical elements in stride.
If I had to pick a word to describe it, I’d say interesting. You’re probably thinking “well that doesn’t sound too interesting if it’s the only word you can use to describe it.” If I’m being honest, and I always try to be honest, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to a friend. I also wouldn’t tell a person not to read it either. If you came up to me and said “Baxter, I just started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” I wouldn’t tell you to immediately stop what you were doing (the same cannot be said about a few other books I’ve read *cough The Little Friend cough the entire Divergent series is a waste of time cough*). It’s just, well, interesting. I appreciated the melancholy and haunting tone of lost childhood but if it had been any longer, I might have gotten bored. The language and descriptions were beautiful, but it didn’t seem to have a seriously long-lasting impression on me. And I almost feel bad about this considering some of the reviews I’ve read of the book. A lot of people love it.
I think this might be a book I would have enjoyed more had I gone into it with a better understanding of the types of works Gaiman has written in the past. I also think it’s a book that I’d like to try and go back and read a few years from now. And I’d like to try reading his other books especially considering I usually enjoy a good fairytale. Because that’s what The Ocean at the End of the Lane is: a fairytale.