The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Aug. 2013)

Ocean_at_the_End_of_the_Lane_US_CoverThere’s a lot of beauty to be found in Neil Gaiman‘s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s a haunting, lyrical, spell-binding tale, full of fluid prose and sharp insight into the human experience.

Gaiman has a unique ability to meld reality and the amorphous, dream-like states we sometimes find ourselves in.

In this story about a man who returns to the farm of his childhood friend and relives the nightmarish events of a time in his youth, Gaiman brings out the tenuous nature of memories, especially childhood memories. And because this is a fantasy piece, a lot of the memories seem unreal, and yet Gaiman infuses them with enough detail (a boy eating porridge at a kitchen table, a kitten’s comforting purr against the cheek) to make it believable.

The prose is as fluid as the story, effortlessly gliding between the ephemeral and the concrete: “… the peculiar crinkling of space on space into dimensions that fold like origami and blossom like strange orchids.” And every once in a while, he will slam the reader against a jagged truth that makes you pause:“She was the storm, she was the lightening, she was the adult world with all its power and all its secrets and all its foolish casual cruelty.”

It’s a very good story. And if there’s any criticism to give, it’s that the ending is – perhaps – not as resolute as some would like. But then again, the entire tale exists in a kind of dream realm, where things have no beginning and no end.

So maybe the end is perfect.