It’s been over five years since Neil Gaiman wrote a book for adults. During that time he’s written various short stories and books for younger audiences. It’s been so long that I’d pretty much given up hope for getting a book more geared to me. But then this past June, I stumbled on news that among several new books he’s publishing this year, one of them, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, was for adults.
And it is very much an adult book. Gaiman himself, in an interview, was concerned that younger readers might think they’re ready to read this book when they aren’t. So he ” started the book off with a couple of really dry chapters. It’s like, if you’ve made it this far, then you might be ready for the rest of it . [. . . ] You have to be this tall to go on this ride.” This may strike you as a bit odd, especially when I tell you that, in the words of Emily May, “This book is childhood.” And that is probably the most apt description of the book I have come across. Gaiman has managed to capture the essence of childhood and share it with adult readers around the world.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane starts off with the narrator having a bit of time before he has to be at his sister’s house for a funeral. He wanders to the neighbourhood where he grew up and sits himself down at a pond that Lettie Hempstock, the girl who lived there, convinced him was an ocean. And then the memories from that summer come flooding back. That was the summer when a being from another universe followed him home. And none of the grownups will believe him if he tells them the truth. Only Lettie Hempstock and her family might be able to put things right, but he has to get to them first, an impossible feat with the being, who also happens to be an adult, turning the other adults against him.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fantastic read. I didn’t personally find the first chapters overly dry, but the book does really pick up a few chapters in. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a welcome comeback after Gaiman’s several year hiatus from writing adult fiction. It is by no means for everyone, but if you’re a fan of Gaiman’s other work, you’ll love it.
I feel awful when I go against Gaiman because he’s lovely and his fandom is insane, but I just can’t love this book. I really enjoyed reading your review though. It made me think about things a bit differently. Maybe I just felt that the book was dry all around, or slow. I’m not even sure.
Like I wrote, Ocean at the End of the Lane really isn’t for everyone. 🙂
If you’re interested, Neil Gaiman shares the Hempstocks’ lemon pancake recipe here: http://www.omnivoracious.com/2013/06/uncharted-waters-joe-hill-explores-neil-gaimans-the-ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane.html