Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is known for creating unique fantasy worlds and deeply thoughtful characters and stories. I was excited to find a new book by him and equally happy that it was short. It's a book that can easily be read in a day, but the story is contemplative and layered and lovely.

You can read a synopsis here or here, and I don't like to fill reviews such, but if you only have time (or patience) to read what I've written, here's a quick summary: The main character tells a story, in flashback first person form, of magical, frightening and fantastical events that happened when he was 7 years old. The story includes magical phenomena, good versus evil (and the sometimes blurred lines between), creatures of death and darkness, and a trio of old-world good witches (for lack of a better word) who help him.

My favorite part of the story is the farm the three women live on. The food sounds amazing, thick, rich and filling; the imagery of the farmhouse and the furnishings feels... perfect. It feels like the place where all good books take readers- warm, welcoming, old-fashioned, sturdy, and safe. More than imagining, you can feel the warm fireside, the thick wooden table, the hot stew and crusty bread, the soft, deep mattress and the feeling of a thick candle in your hand. 

The way the story is told, it's hard to believe it's a 7-year old's point of view-- he seems much older and more independent than any 7-year old I've ever known, but that's just my own perception. Much like Flavia DeLuce in Alan Bradley's books, he is more intelligent than the average child his age, but well written enough that you don't really care.

I liked the characters; the tension built well and the structure of the story is solid. At the same time, it's strange and floaty and imaginative; truth crossed with fiction, and even the main character has a hard time knowing what was real and what was imagined.

Gaiman has been well established as a great storyteller, and while I didn't love "Neverwhere", I completely adored "The Graveyard Book". "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is the third of Gaiman's books I've read, though I intend to keep reading until I've read them all. 

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