Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Ocean at The End of The Lane: Review

It's the start of the semester, and not only am I teaching an overload, and not only am I finishing revisions of the novel, I am also going up for promotion to full professor (why, why WHY? Don't ask me.  I forget why).

So I have no business reading for fun.


In my experience if you don't read for fun, very soon you stop being able to be a writer at all.

This is probably just an excuse, since the whole reason for my existence, since I was two or three, I think, has been reading for fun.  (No, I'm serious! One of my first memories is sitting on the floor of our trailer [yes, I was born in a trailer] with a book in my lap, trying as fiercely as I could to read it.  I couldn't, because I was maybe two years old, but I still remember the letters.  One was a lower-case g.  And I remember walking into the Children's Room of the public library when I was about six, the utter joy that filled me, knowing I could have any book in there, that I would have any book in there, that all the books were mine.)

Anyway.  Though I have no time, and too much to do, I spent a large portion of Tuesday reading Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

My take: it's readable and fun -- I read it straight through -- and, like most Gaiman novels, if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like.

It's Gaiman, in other words.  Mix of mythology and magic (here we have the Crone, mother, maiden) and sad middle-class misunderstood white boy loner who gets rescued (or maybe not, in this case) by the mythic whoevers.  I mean, it's fun, and it's readable, but it kind of always leaves me empty at the end.

And this may be Gaiman's point.  This review certainly seems to think so.

And certainly( as Ben Folds tells us) it's way tough being male, middle-class and white.  I don't mean to make light of the Gaimanesque hero's constant angst.

And there are lots of lovely bits.  The mythic house is nicely done, and there is a great scene at the end where our hero has to stand firm against the monster, inside a magic circle -- and given that our hero is seven, he does really well; and the shifting nature of reality, so that our hero (who is never given a name, something that sort of irks me, I have to admit here) never is clear on what truly has happened in his life, is also very well done.

But, while I can technically appreciate the book, I didn't really feel anything through most of it.

Maybe I'm just not the target audience for this particular class of novel?

So -- recommended, but with reservations.


Tree of Knowledge said...

I haven't read it yet, but you just described my reaction to every Gaiman book I've read. I think of his writing as enjoyable but forgettable. Stardust has really stood out for me, but others not so much. I heard him read the first chapter, and I thought it was well-written and had some neat images. But my plan is still to check it out from the library not buy it. I happy to read your review though because everyone else I know who likes Gaiman (and apparently large portions of the internet) thinks of him as a god who can do no wrong; he only writes perfection.

delagar said...

Yes -- I get him from the library too!

Some Girl said...

I didn't love it. I have loved some of his books - American Gods, Good Omens, Anansi Boys. But this one felt too simplistic, much like Coraline. I would call it a book for children, but not all children's books are simplistic. I didn't love it and probably won't read it again. Having said that, it would be a nice non-vapid beach or mountain read.

Anonymous said...

Hey, well done you for being up for FULL PROFESSOR! That's fantastic! Such good luck. -- L

delagar said...

Thanks, L! I'll probably be more pleased when the process itself is over.

Some Girl -- Yes, that's how it felt. A good, engaging, easy read.