The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Winner of Specsaver's Book of the Year and Goodreads' Choice 2013
Themes: magic realism, mortality, childhood, repressed memories, countryside
The Ocean at the End of the Lane has been my first Neil Gaiman reading experience, and I don't know what I was expecting... but it wasn't this. I really wanted to like this book and I know people who speak so highly of it, not to mention that it won so many awards! Not that it wasn't okay, but it wasn't great. It was no Stardust. I think I have more complaints about it than praise, and when I talk about Ocean to others, I can't help but trivialise it:
"What's it about?""Oh, it's just about this boy who gets a worm stuck in his foot that metamorphosises into an evil nanny."
Okay, so I might have left out an affair, a suicide and some magic realism. But honestly, to me, what little there was didn't atone for the main plot of the book... which I found... lacking. In fact, I found the interview with Neil Gaiman at the end of the book more interesting than the actual book itself. I love that the locations in the book are based on real places in his childhood, and I love that the Hempstock family crop up quite a lot in his books, and are his oldest fabrications. I can understand why so many people admire him; Gaiman was fantastic at getting into the mindset of a child narrator, and recognising the differences in children and adults in a way most of us wouldn't even think about. Some of his ponderings are highly quotable.
"Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences."
I'll say this for it: I liked the narrator's relationship with animals. I don't think adults realise sometimes how attached children really do get to their pets. And I really did like the ending. I'm glad it ended somewhat happily - but still unresolved - with a chance for it to be continued. But overall, I thought the entire book was a bit of a lost opportunity. For the most part, I wouldn't recommend it; particularly not to adults. I can't fathom them enjoying a story about a worm in someone's foot that turns into an evil nanny, but yet I've seen so many adults grant the book five stars on Goodreads! What's that about?
Rating: 2.5 stars - my lowest rating so far this year. In my opinion, completely overrated. I'm slightly disappointed.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the 9th book I've finished reading this year. View my Reading List, or become my friend on Goodreads, for more book-related posts.
What did you think of the book? Let me know in the comments below.