Review of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers. I have enjoyed his works unevenly, loving some and merely admiring others. Therefore, when I saw this new book out, I couldn’t resist buying myself a (gasp!) print copy. And I lay there and read. Luxuriantly.

A couple hours later – it’s not a long read – I arose thoughtfully, with a feeling of less than complete emotional enjoyment that rather puzzled me given the obvious merit of the book and the many deep responses from other readers. It took me a while to puzzle out my feelings. What was it about this book (whom many seem to feel is “deeper” than his other books) that comparatively turned me off? (I rush to qualify this statement and say that my idea of a Gaiman turnoff is still the equivalent of mind boggling brilliance in other writers. His ability to conjure up the specter of other, vast worlds and massive backstory/worldbuilding with just a few words in the right context is completely brilliant.)

And after due thought, I think it is this: it is a quiet, poignant book that leaves the protagonist saved, but not uplifted. He remains muddled and alienated (my feeling) albeit alive. That, and the sense that he is still haunted/trapped by his childhood traumas is just too close to my worst nightmares. I remain deeply grateful today that I am in a place where I have some control over my surroundings and where I have been able to fashion emotional comfort for myself in the form of family and a livelihood that suits my relatively introverted temperament. In short, the narratives I like wind up with the narrator having a rosier outlook – not necessarily materially better off, but a good width away from depression, that territory I wish not to tread on.

PS. Fave Gaiman books? The Graveyard Boy; Coraline; Neverwhere; and a haunting and evocative short story written in an anthology the name of which I forgot, which revolved around Shadow, the protagonist of American Gods. Fangrrrl!

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