Book Review – The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
- Book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
- Authors: Neil Gaiman
- Genre: Fiction
- Year of Release: 2013
- Read 181-page hardcover edition in February 2016.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane concerns a man who returns to his childhood neighbourhood, and remembers a frightening, cryptic series of incidents that occurred when he was a seven-year old boy. His seven-year old self is helped during this time by a unique 11-year old girl and her mother and grandmother.
Bestselling author Neil Gaiman is back with a dark, fantastical work of fiction, in the short novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Gaiman’s original concept was to write this as a short story, but there was so much to say that it grew into the novel that is before readers now.
Gaiman, known for bestselling works like American Gods, has done an incredible job at developing some very unique ideas and concepts, and building them into a page-turner that ideally should be read in one or two sittings.
Gaiman is accomplished at using description to frighten and entertain the reader, and we get a wonderful tale in this novel that has elements of fantasy and even mythology.
This work is somewhat similar to Gaiman’s earlier novel Coraline in some ways, where a young person is trying to make there way through a strange world that doesn’t make sense and is fraught with supernatural frights and dangers. Gaiman succeeds when he is writing the plot and setting up intense sequences for our protagonist and his unique 11-year old protector. Gaiman’s ability to create fear in multiple gripping scenes is clear, and it allows for a fast moving narrative that pulls the reader into the story. Gaiman includes frightening scenes with the seven-year old alone with his fears, which heightens the sense of foreboding and suspense embedded throughout the novel. The reader can relate, as everyone can remember a time when they were a child and afraid of something.
Furthermore, these scenes are written with Gaiman’s short, sharp prose. An example: “The flints of the lane hurt my feat as I ran, but I did not care. Soon enough, the thing that was Ursula Monkton would be finished with my father. Perhaps they would go up to check on me together. She would find that I was gone and she would come after me.”
Comparing to his similar work Coraline, one area where The Ocean at the End of the Lane is stronger would be in Gaiman’s ability to create a unique mythology behind the supernatural beings and forces in the story. He does a great job at building powerful concepts and ideas in a relatively short amount of time.
Conversely, it should be noted that one of the weaknesses in this novel versus his previous work Coraline is that Gaiman does not build as much humour into the story. Coraline was equally frightening in parts, but it had some great humourous moments, including bizarre quotes from characters. It seems like there were opportunities to build some of that into The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but Gaiman doesn’t take advantage of this as much.
Another slight issue with the novel was that our narrator is the adult version of the seven-year old child, who is recounting this story to the audience. However, despite some of the shocking things that occur in the plot, the narrator never seems overly shocked, emotional, or dismayed. One would think the writing would sound more passionate and emotional, where at times it feels a bit too flat and passive.
These issues do detract slightly from the story, but overall one has to give Gaiman a lot of credit here. The characters, both human and supernatural, are interesting and exciting. The plot is truly fast-moving, with lots of action, suspense, and thrills. There are complexities and surprises that strengthen the novel.
Overall, this is a great novel from a talented writer, and a great addition to Neil Gaiman’s collection of work.
Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.