Review by Shellie for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
Shellie’s quick take: A concise little novel with mystical and horror elements for the adult and older teen reader. It’s a perfect book for discussion since it’s layered as well.
Shellie’s description: An Englishman relives a traumatic youthful event with dark fairytale-like happenings which have colored his memories and his life.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is my second Neil Gaiman book. The first was The Sandman: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Yoshitak Amano (text links to my review) and like the first book it has a distinct, clear and simply articulated style. I like this aspect of his writing - a lot.
It’s a great book for the Anglophile with its English setting, as the reader gets to take a trip down memory lane during a time in the not-so-distant past. There’s the sights, sounds, and tastes (yes tastes - Gaimen uses a variety of foods to illustrate the time) that many readers will love - those that have lived it and those who wish to visit it vicariously.
It has a touch of the mystical, which makes me wonder if Mr. Gaiman has been mining some of the more esoteric sciences and mysticism, since there appears to be a speckling of these ideas throughout the more mind-bending parts of the book. Certainly the disciplines contain elements that are conducive to transcending reality which this book of course does. Conversely, there is a firm grounding in a very relatable world at first, which helps to create my favorite kind of speculative story. It takes off from reality, moving into dark and weird territory which I find makes a book accessible.
There are lots of things that go into making a great book, and there are several things I loved about the trade paperback edition that I read. It contains some extras which make the book even nicer to read and handle - its cover; an informative interview with the author which includes a recipe for crepe-like pancakes with lemon and sugar on them; the copy has those lovely flaps on the front and back cover that you can use to mark your place; and best yet are the questions to consider when doing group discussions. The trade paperback is perfect for book groups. And because most book groups are generally women, elements in the story like the characters that represent women as the maiden, mother, and crone may facilitate more in-depth discussions.
Definitely, a dark book - it’s a book for adults that I think it would appeal to older teens. It’s one of my favorite books this year with so many of my favorite techniques and features; it’s a 4 star for me. Highly recommended.
William Morrow Paperbacks | 06/03/2014 | Paperback | Pages: 208