Stuff and Nonsense: The Ocean at the End of the Lane


8.18.2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane


Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.

A man returns to Sussex for a funeral and, while driving through his old village, ends up at the house of a friend he has not seen since childhood. She's not there -- "gone away to Australia" years ago -- but her mother is and greets him warmly enough and allows him to look around. He goes out back to the pond ... and falls down the rabbit hole of memory.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane grabbed me at the start, held me firmly until the end, and then faltered a little -- mostly, I think, because the ending moved the story squarely out of the magical possibility of childhood and back into a wholly unmagical adulthood. I really had no real reason to care for the adult narrator. Particularly as he would not remember any of it again!

However, I did like that there wasn't a lot of explanation about why the world worked as it did -- things happened and while some where quite terrible they fit the story and made sense. More explanations would have just muddied things.

Over all, I was surprised by how much I liked The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Gaiman's works are pretty hit-or-miss for me and this book arrived on my desk so highly recommended that merely looking at it made me feel positively skittish.

As much as I liked it, though, I admit it wasn't surprising. If you've read Gaiman's other works then you're pretty familiar with the idea mythical beings dwell among us, lurking in hidden corners down forgotten footpaths. And there's a lot of that in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It's well done with some exquisite descriptions, but it wasn't anything new.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow, 2013)

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