Monday, October 14, 2013

A Review of Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean at the End of the Lane"

A Review of Neil Gaiman's
 "The Ocean at the End of the Lane"
by Jean Woest

            There are few living authors that have such a long lists of accolades or such a fierce fan presence as Neil Gaiman. Present in every imaginable medium (novel, graphic novel, film, television, picture books, children's books, young adult books, literary novels, short story, and video game) Gaiman has left an indelible mark on literature already.
            And then he decided to write a short story-- that became a novel-- called "The Ocean at the End of the Lane".
            It's not a very thick book. It can be read through in a few hours, though it calls for-- almost demands-- a closer, more paced reading. Because in that small space is contained not only the real, visceral and fragile presence of childhood, but also the echoes of the after effects of trauma and the questions this raises around memory.
            At face value it is the story of a memory. A memory that has been lost and is then regained. A memory of childhood horrors, of broken promises, and of magic. It is the memory of a child. Told by a man. And this is very important.
            Children see more than adults see, and so recall things that adults never remember. But at the same time, adults have records that stand under the support of witnesses and receipts, records of things that disprove childhood memories. There is real tension here. And there is so much at stake. This is the crux-- the tensions-- that Gaiman plays with.
            Some authors would chose a side and argue for it, build straw man opponents and knock them down. Others would show both sides equally, leaving their readers floating listlessly at the end in an unending moral vacuum. Gaiman somehow manages to do neither, and that is precisely the thing that causes this reviewer to keep rereading the work, to try and figure out how exactly an author can refuse to take a side, and yet still leave his readers grounded firmly in the belief that the good won, or rather, that the good endured the trials. Or rather, that there is still good in the world, even if we cannot recall it's presence. It's echoes rebound through our daily lives, without a second thought to the shout that started them.
            On top of this vastly unhelpful and abstract note on the theme, Gaiman also weaves a wonderful tale with stunning imagery, beautiful characterization, and the very visceral feel that the reader is being pushed back forcefully into 1969 Sussex. It has the texture of a time capsule, with the magic of a fairy tale, and the optimism of a Shakespearian comedy.
            There are many books calling for attention at this time of the year. But Ocean is one of the ones that deserve that attention. It is a quick read if you're willing to read it only once. But no one reads it just once. To do so would defeat the purpose of the story. The purpose, to remember.

You can buy The Ocean at the End of the Lane HERE

Or other works by Neil Gaiman HERE

Also, here's the link to Neil Gaiman's Twitter and his Blog

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