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

This book.

Holy flying space cows.

I haven’t read anything so amazing, poignant, and thoughtful in such a long time that this one hit me like a flying brick to the face, if that can ever be a good thing.

Let me clarify. Ever since  I first heard  of Neil Gaiman, I’ve been very curious to read  one of his books. It’s the kind of curious that a small child is when they see their first rainbow, or discover how very magical the world can be. It reminded me a lot of being a carefree toddler, who can keep finding magic and happiness  and joy everywhere I look. And that in itself is a memory to be treasured and held close.

The novel itself is about a young boy who suffers a series  of strange events and befriends a family of mythical beings masquerading as humans, who he helps to fight off inter-dimensional creatures who play on humanity’s vices. It’s about how easily one forgets the wonder of being young, and how as we grow older  we lose  the ability to see  magic in the world and only see it as a plain boring old planet where we are  the cogs that grind the machine. Being at a time in my life where I’m starting my forays into the working world, I’m slowly coming to realise just how true all of this is. And it’s very depressing. Personally, I don’t see why we need to lose that magic in our lives, why adulthood and whimsy can’t live side by side in peace. According to Gaiman, he doesn’t see why either and this book is not only an interpretation of childhood as seen by an adult, but of his own childhood. He urges readers not to see it as biographical, but as an interpretation of how childhood is, and one that is easy to connect with as a reader.

Character-wise, Gaiman has created a host of characters who own the stage. They tell you what is and what isn’t, and they make you believe. You simply have no choice. For me, I was dragged back to the imaginary worlds of my childhood, and recalled how anything beyond the boundaries of the pavers in the courtyard of the estate I lived in was the big wide world. I’d go on adventures with my best friend, and we’d pretend that we were going off to strange and distant lands (even though it was just through the hole in the fence to investigate the neighbours’ front yards, and occasionally get chased by wasps). We were explorers, pioneers, letting our imaginations run wild and meeting interesting people along the way. Always home before dark with tales to tell, and out after breakfast the next day. This is what Gaiman’s world in Oceans is like. Childhood, but in a book.

The scenes were as vivid as if I were standing in them myself, feeling the mud between my toes and getting grass and leaves in my hair. I never had a babysitter or a nanny, but the imagery in Oceans was strong enough to let me extrapolate what it might have been like and to empathise with the main character. Convinced that Ursula Monkton, the babysitter, was some kind of demon, the protagonist tries everything he can to escape from her clutches. Failing, he finds himself allied with his friend from down the street and together they manage to overcome the creature that Ms. Monkton actually is. But I won’t say anything more, that would be spoiler territory.

What did I get from Oceans, then? For one thing, Gaiman is as wonderful as I’d come to expect. His work is enchanting, enthralling, and truly transports you to a time and place besides your own. I was actually upset when I got to the last few pages, wishing that there had been more. I can definitely say that he’s been one of the main influencers for writing my writing style, though I’ve got a long way to go before I can even think about being publishable. Thankyou, Neil Gaiman, for writing this amazing novel. You’ve definitely got me hooked.

Go read it. You won’t regret it and you’ll want to go back for more.

Never stop reading, and look out for my next review! I’m currently updating a backlog of reviews I’ve had since before November *coughs awkwardly*, so there’s going to be a flood of them now.



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