- Published: New York : William Morrow, 2013.
- Year Published: 2013
- Edition: First edition.
- Description: 181 p. ; 22 cm
- Language: English
- Format: Book
- Good and evil -- Fiction.
- Women -- Fiction.
- Boys -- Fiction.
- Survival -- Fiction.
- Memory -- Fiction.
- Magic -- Fiction.
- Horror fiction.
- Fantasy fiction.
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The ocean at the end of the lane
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Where To Find It
Call number: Fantasy
Available Copies: Downtown 1st Floor, Malletts Adult, Pittsfield Adult, Traverwood Adult, West Adult
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
However, the more I think about the book, the more I am struck by how deep it is - I imagine English teachers simply adore this book. Neil Gaiman is a masterful writer - the story is rife with archetypes such as the triple goddess (maiden, mother, and crone as one) and water (the ocean) as a symbol of the unconsciousness, elements which render it powerful and meaningful.
In the first chapter, the protagonist as a middle-aged man visits his childhood home for a funeral, and it's BORING...which accents the utter richness and simplicity and innocence of childhood when memory comes crashing in on him. It's like that moment when Dorothy steps out of her black-and-white house and everything is in color.
It's a powerful illustration of childhood. He's sad that no one shows up at his birthday party but he's even happier to be able to bury his nose in a book. He knows that "naked" is bad, although he doesn't really understand why. He knows that children explore but adults take paths and always know what to do. He is confused that grownups take wonderful delicious things like peas and put them in cans and make them repulsive, and he has simple faith that his new friends will protect him when the monsters come.
It reminded me strongly of Coraline at first: a bright young child's family is endangered by a sneaky supernatural fiend, and adults won't or can't help. But where Coraline is about empowerment, Ocean is simply an acknowledgment of the wonder and terror of being a child.
Reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane really made me relive my own childhood...Gaiman tapped into some magic when he wrote this.
Gaiman's descriptions of childhood fears, his quintessentially English house and garden and the neighboring farms, and the people (and/or beings) the main character encounters are superb. Now imagine a supernatural Guinea worm in your foot....
But more than a young adult book, I think this is really meant for adults who need to remember what it feels like to be a very small child. I'm in awe of how Mr. Gaiman can so easily tap into those elements that are so fundamental to childhood...things that most people, and most definitely I have forgotten. It all came flooding back reading this (much in the way that the main character's memories come back to him when he sits beside the "ocean"): the isolation, the "irrational" fears, the way your parents were the center of your universe and how terrifying it was to have anything threaten that balance (this was a common fear of mine as a child: that something scary would be happening and my parents would either not believe me or would become a part of whatever it was). But more than that, the really good things about being a kid are represented here: the simple pleasures of a delicious meal, a day spent in a special place with a good book, a cozy room with a flickering fireplace and a squooshy bed, the comfort of those certain adults and friends who can make you feel safe just by being there and telling all the scary things they have no power over them.
This is a wonderful story that will chill you and then warm you up again in the same page. The imagery is so real and easy to picture, I can't see how they could not make a movie out of this.... It taps into so many truths about the way things work, the way we overcome our most basic fears, and the way we remember the events of our lives.
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