Mini Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Some years ago, I came across Neil Gaiman. A lot of people seemed to like his works and his books also seemed right up my alley. So I read Neverwhere - and wasn't too impressed.
Sure, it's nicely written. It's also a bit of a page-turner, in that you want to know how it ends. So I guess in a way, that's all you can expect from a book? That it makes you want to read it, and read it to the end. However, it left me without the desire to read it again or even read anything else from that author.
Fast-forward a few years. I've become a loyal follower of Amanda Palmer, who happens to be married to that same Neil Gaiman. So, inevitably, there's some crossover. I still don't follow @neilhimself on Twitter, but @amandapalmer often retweets some of his stuff and his Tumblr ended up in my list of RSS feeds, since I like his thoughtful replies to fans about what it takes to be an author.
So I felt it was time to give him another chance. I've read his latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I try not to post spoilers.
As with Neverwhere (or what little I remember of it), there's this parallel world: Somewhat shaken from a funeral, a man ends up near his (now demolished) childhood home and soon starts to remember events from this childhood. They start with very normal little everyday things and end up in this turmoil of an adventure involving women that don't age and creatures from outside this world.
As with Neverwhere, this is a page-turner. I never felt bored, the author never wastes too much time describing things or the surroundings; just enough so that you can imagine them or at least get a feeling for them. Then the story continues.
Right up until the Epilogue, however, I was still in a sort of "Yeah, that's neat. But so what?" mood over the book. For some reason, the Epilogue, which brings us back to the real world, rescued the book for me. I think it was the bit about (minor spoiler here!) this not being the first time he returns to this place. Don't we all have this place (in space or in time) to which we need to return from time to time, to refocus ourselves?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane reinforces my view that Neil Gaiman is very good at telling a story. But I'm still not sure that, once finished, it means a lot to me. Or that I would want to read it again any time soon.
For the last couple of days, since I've started reading the book, I've been - unsuccessfully - trying to figure out why I like Haruki Murakami's books but not Neil Gaiman's. There are so many similarities - the parallel worlds, the switching back and forth between the two - and yet, given the choice to re-read a book by Murakami and one by Gaiman, I'd pick Murakami without hesitation. Neil Gaiman is a good writer and he seems to be a nice person but he still doesn't write my kind of books.