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The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Kindle, June 18, 2013||
|Length: 259 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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It's a short book; it's enchanting; it's very well written...definitely top-quality fantasy literature. I'm not a fan of fantasy literature, but this book swept me away into such a delightful and fascinating series of incredible adventures--or should I say misadventures--that I could not pull myself away. The author is correct to warn that this is not a fable for children...the reality is far too stark and dark, and there are definitely some adult themes.
"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is a tale about a lonely bookish seven-year old whose life takes a terrifying turn into a dark and creepy reality. The child is never named, but in recent interviews, the author admits that this child is very much like he was at that age. The child lives in the lovely English countryside of Sussex--the same environment where the author grew up. And like Gaiman, the child is wise, responsible, and moral beyond his years. The parents are blithely confident that nothing bad could happen to their brilliant bookish son in such a bucolic setting. But of course, bad things can, and do happen, especially to the pure and innocent...
The parents have no idea that the Hempstocks--an eleven-year-old girl, her mother, and grandmother--who live by a pond at the end of the lane, are really a group of immortals who play at being human. Our seven-year-old child makes friends with the girl, Lettie Hempstock, and she introduces him to the pond, which is really an ocean. Eventually, our narrator and Lettie take a trip into a higher plain of reality that is entered somehow through the property owned by the Hempstocks, and so begins a series of remarkable misadventures with unforeseen consequences.
This novel is a heroic tale about the age-old battle between childhood innocence and mythic forces. The book will charm you, fill you with awe, make you feel on edge, surprise you, and make you want to keep on reading no mater what important obligations you might have waiting for you to accomplish.
Since finishing the book this afternoon, I was so curious about this fine writer that I started doing research into his life, philosophy, and writing. It seems that in prepublication interviews, Gaiman says that he's prouder of this particular work than anything else he's ever written...and, as I learned today, this is an author who has had an insanely prolific career spanning blockbuster successes across a large number of different creative media. He says he's put an enormous amount of effort into writing and rewriting this book in order to get the tone, words, and dramatic focus just right. A number of critics have already said they consider this work to be as close to sterling literary fiction as Gaiman is ever likely to get.
Indeed, I was very impressed. For me, this work is, without doubt, first-rate fantasy and escapist fiction...and very fine literature, as well. It delivers a highly imaginative, fabulous and fascinating fable that envelops, and attempts to explain, everything in the space-time continuum. Yes, it's that ambitious! It had me hooked from the first to the last page. Simply put: it is an incredible gem of a novel.
Gaiman's sense of description and and the way he puts words together really is interesting. I really found it interesting that the narrator--and his family--don't have names, just roles. As a writing device that could have been annoying and a poor decision, but here I actually think it served quite well for reasons I don't quite now how to put into words. I found the Hempstocks to be quite likable and fascinating and like-able. Having been quite bookish at most point in my childhood, I could relate to the un-named, male narrator (even as female reader).
Much like _Coraline_, this one has a couple of highly quotable passages. I could probably quote several whole sections. My favorite: "Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they just look like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world." Ah, how much easier growing up--and life in general--would be if this was universal knowledge... LOL When I was younger, it was so easy to think, "Adults just don't understand..." but as I've gotten older... I've come to realize yes, some adults do maybe forget what it's like to be young and going through life's various growing-pains... As I've gotten older, though, I've realized that most adults just feel pretty much like they always have and just have more accumulated "battle scars" from learning and living. I'm not sure if it's because I'm something of a big "kid-at-heart" reader, but I feel much the same I did decades (yikes!) ago and still even like many of the same things and have some of the ame dusty and rusty dreams that I had when I was little... LOL
_Coraline_ is still my favorite (and first) Gaiman book, but this one was time well-spent. I don't regret the investment--whether regarding money or time--at all. As I just finished reading the book a few minutes ago, I imagine this one will stick with me and my brain will continue to "chew" on the concepts for a while, much like _Coraline_ (a young adult novel) and _American Gods_ (another of the author's adult novels).
In particular the boy befriends the youngest good witch, a girl who physically appears not much older than he, but whom he comes to realize seems much older. It’s the girl who refers to the pond on her family homestead as the “Ocean.” The girl introduces the unnamed boyish male lead to a supernatural parallel universe, but—in doing so—unwittingly gets the boy tangled up in peril. The boy tracks a portal into his world through which a malevolent creature can slip through. The shape-shifting creature becomes his nanny. However, he is the only one in his family who can recognize the creature’s true nature, and it will do anything to keep the boy from ruining its new gig.
The good witches become the boy’s protectors, and powerful protectors they are. But they aren’t omnipotent, and the forces arrayed against them are formidable as well. Among the morals of the story are that the more powerful enemy of one’s enemy is not only not necessarily one’s friend, but may spell one’s doom. The book also speaks to the rashness of youth running headlong into trouble, and the value of wisdom and experience to find solutions.
This book is short and highly readable. It’s appropriate for young adult readers, but can be enjoyed by adult readers as well.