Tuesday, November 5, 2013

#CBR5 Review #50: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I know a lot of yee fellow Cannonballers have already read and reviewed this book since it came out this summer, so I’ll try to keep it brief. For me, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was an exercise in reminiscence on the past, and the wonder of childhood. I was amazed at how quickly and unquestioningly the young boy of the story just accepted the strange things occurring around him. But when I think about it, children are like that, aren’t they? They are the most likely to believe in things that defy logic, or even yearn for more magical explanations for things that they may not understand. This brief novel truly captures this quality:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane begins with our nameless protagonist, returning to his hometown for a funeral, and finding himself back at the old farmhouse at the end of the lane where his childhood friend used to live. As he sits looking at the pond in the back of the farm, he recalls some strange events from when he was seven years old. It all began with the family car being stolen by a lodger living with the protagonist’s family, which is then used as the place of suicide for the lodger. Upon discovering this with his father, our protagonist meets a young girl, named Lettie, and her mother and grandmother. There is something peculiar but spectacular about these women, and they soon inform the young protagonist of some danger afoot in the area in relation to the recently deceased man. The lines between different worlds and realms are blurred, and figures cross between the two, threatening the stability and commonplace nature of the human world. The young boy of our story must learn to question that what he sees, and more than anything, to become brave in his world. But as he sits and remembers these events now that he is older in age, the question becomes whether or not this truly happened, and if it did, what it all means? And why is he remembering it now, after having forgotten these events for so many years? Do we need to forget these things from our childhood when we get older? Is it a mark of growing up when we can actually explain things and let go in order to move on with our lives? There are so many questions I now have that this book made me think about that I don't know if anyone can really answer for us all: we can just try to understand for ourselves.

There is an enchanting quality to this novel that is simply beautiful, but at the same time, I’m not really sure for whom it was written. The story is reminiscent of a tale that would be told to children, and perfectly suited to the sense of adventure of a young person. And yet there are things in it that I’m not sure a child would understand. What I do love, however, is how the different mythologies and worlds are worked in so seamlessly. It may be a short and sweet story, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane is both mysterious and cute, and very much enjoyable to read, even if just to know how it will all unravel and be explained in the end.

[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]

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