I’m back on the radio with a review of the new novel by Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. You can hear my review via the WKAR’s Current State website here:
WKAR also has a new page for all of my book reviews, which you can find here. You can also learn more about my reviews via this page on my site.
You can find Neil Gaiman’s new novel on Amazon (here) and at any bookstore. If you would rather read my book review than hear it, you can do so below . I hope you enjoy it.
Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Pure escapism entertainment is a hard trick to pull off in today’s fast world.
Everyone is multi-tasking, everyone has three different things going on at once. And then consider the world of books. There are eBooks on iPhones, and we can check sports scores and emails on our Kindles. Heck, you can even see on some e-readers how others feel about the book while you’re reading it. Did others like that twist too? Now you know! Yes, books can come with running commentary.
So the great magic trick for today’s novelists is to come up with an idea that makes it so a reader doesn’t think about our wired-in reality. A story so captivating that we want nothing more than to sit and just take in the narrative, disappear from the distraction of our busy lives.
It is definitely a challenge fit for a literary Houdini and Neil Gaiman is that kind of a magician.
Gaiman’s new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a story built out of memory. And like our own memories, that information is fluid, foggy. Our unnamed narrator, while avoiding a funeral, stumbles into a house that he may or may not remember. He is welcomed in and is drawn to sit in the back near a pond. And it is there, looking at the water, that terrifying and wonderful memories begin to return to him of an adventure he had as a child. Those adventures took place with a girl named Lettie Hempstock who told him that the pond was actually an ocean.
This is such a beautiful and precious tale that one can’t help but feel is a story best told in whispers. It follows in that new trend of magic realism, which are stories about our world, with something more. And like most magic realism tales, it is like unraveling a sweater. You notice one thing off and suddenly your entire environment has changed and needs to be put back together. Books like this always ask that fun question: What if there was something more to the planet than what we can see in front of us? And then throws possibilities at us. Always just adding enough so we don’t lose our suspension of disbelief. Could something like this happen? Possibly…
I was completely hooked by this book, reminding me almost immediately why I love reading and literature so much. See, unlike films and computer games and plays, a book enters through your own imagination, it exists in us. It is a private conversation. Yes, as readers we are part of the process, we aren’t just having it shown to us. The writer constructs the possibilities there, just giving you enough for you to fill in the rest.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Lettie Hempstock is the youngest of three generations of women living in a farmhouse, which may or may not be a farmhouse. Her grandmother may be as old as time, but she will never really say. Gaiman never really explains everything we experience, we just see it through the narrator’s eyes. And for the amazing Hempstock clan, everything that happens makes sense; it’s real for them, not always worth explaining. So we go along like the narrator, trusting in these wondrous characters.
Someday someone will turn this into a film with a loud soundtrack, celebrities and special effects and someday it might even be a play, or a website, or an app, and at that moment something will be lost as it joins the noise of our frantic world… But before it does, take my advice, turn off all of the demanding electronics in your house and just read this book.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is magic.
If you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!
Need an editor? Dream of finishing that book but need some help? Learn about my editing services by visiting this page on my site. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and request to work with me by clicking the image below.
Wow. You certainly do know how to write a book review. I think you should be Neil Gaiman’s publicist. Seriously, you have convinced me I must read this book. Beautiful job as always, Scott.
Also, I agree with you that a book exists through the soul of the reader. It’s wonderful, the worlds we can explore without ever physically having to be in a certain place or time.
Thanks for another wonderful review!
Thanks Deb! Glad you liked it. You can check out my other WKAR reviews if you want on my page for it on my site. They are a lot of fun to do.
I always love finding a great book to talk about. I have had to do a few negative reviews since I started, but nothing beats writing a review on a book that inspires me.
I should have another review next week for Halloween.
Just added it to my library list!
Great! I hope you like it!
My brother and I are always critiquing movies on makeup design, transitions, writing, acting, visuals, etc. It is interesting that now there is a way to do this while reading a book (without the need of a book club or other forms of scheduled meetings). Finding the flaws or things that work in stories is one of the best ways to learn to write.
I’m all for discussing books AFTER they are read (big fan of it as well); yet while one is reading at the same just feels like private heckling. Eek!
Thanks for writing!
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