Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the second of my holiday books, and one I had deliberately left aside to savour when I had the time and space to do so. I picked up my copy of the book the day before it was released, at a promotional talk by Neil Gaiman in London in conjunction with the Royal Soceity of Literature – see my blog for more on that and a link to a recording of the event on their site. I make no bones about being a Neil Gaiman fan, Neverwhere and Coraline being two of my favourite books. There is something about his playfulness with language and ideas that appeals to me, a whimsical childlike joy of the exploration of ideas and language. I could have read it on the train home, I wanted to, but time away provides the space not just to read a book, but to do so in an unrushed way with room to think and enjoy it.

So, was it worth the wait? Yes, definitely. The story if fun and the language up to his usual haunting style. For the benefit of those that have read others of his books, this is definitely in the Coraline camp. It details the adventures of a book loving boy after a discovery that changes everything that was familiar (treading carefully so as not to introduce spoilers as much as I can). My children would understand and enjoy it on that level. But there is more going on here than just that. It is also a highly personal book, memories of Gaiman’s, people, places and events woven into the magical world he creates. There is, alongside this, a final third level, an exploration of the loss of childhood and the difference between adults and children. It is this that I think will draw me back to the book for a second reading and may end up shunting it into the 5 star category as I read it reflecting more perhaps on what is says about this than just the fun of the basic story.

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