The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

I still haven’t actually read much of Neil Gaiman, but what I have read I’ve enjoyed, and I want to keep reading more of his work, so when I saw that our library had this book coming in, I decided to add my name to the list.

I’m not really going to try and explain what this book is about, because I don’t quite know where I would even start. But I will give a very basic introduction and say that the book is about a middle-aged man who is back in his hometown for a funeral. Without realizing it, he drives back to where he used to live, and visits a nearby farm, where, sitting by a pond, he starts to remember some extraordinary events that occurred there when he was seven.

This was a great little read. The story is written, technically, for an adult audience, but the majority of the book takes place when the main character is seven. There are some adult happenings, but viewed from the standpoint of a seven-year-old, so it definitely falls into a “fairy-tales for adults” kind of placement, which I love. That’s actually, I think, my favourite thing about Gaiman as a writer…he writes fairy-tales and fantasy stories for an “adult” audience while not losing that mystical, childlike quality, and he writes “children’s” fantasy that can easily be read and enjoyed by older audiences, too.

This story is not a fairy-tale, of course. It’s definitely a work of fantasy, and one in which the fantasy elements are never really explained. Because the story is experienced through a seven-year-old, there is a lot that’s never known, a lot of things we just sort of glimpse about these other worlds and other beings. And it works in this story. We wouldn’t expect a seven-year-old to understand the complexities that I don’t think any human in this story-world would be able to grasp. So the fact that as a reader you are forced to just accept whatever happens without any kind of laid-out logical explanation (grounded in fantasy or otherwise) is okay.

The story is also about someone average, a normal boy who just happens to temporarily get pulled into a fantastical world. And I enjoyed that. What happens in this story has absolutely no effect to outsiders, when all is said and done. We get a lot of stories about the extraordinary people, and there definitely were some extraordinary beings in this tale. But the main focus of the story is not really about them. It’s about the normal boy, the average citizen who doesn’t know how to be a hero, the child who is confused and scared and fascinated by the mysteries around him.

I can’t say this was a life-altering story or anything, and I wouldn’t call it my favourite of Gaiman’s works. But it was enjoyable, a fairly quick read, and definitely worth a look if you enjoy Gaiman or other sorts of light fantasy works!

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