Thursday, July 04, 2013

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Garrett was kind enough to get me an autographed copy of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, so I could skip the queue at the library and get to reading Gaiman's latest.

The novel starts out autobiographically, and one could be almost forgiven for thinking that Gaiman has decided to move away from his usual genre. (In his blog, Gaiman states that he started the novel slow so that younger readers wouldn't persist and read a book meant for adults) We get some insight about how someone who's going to be an author grows up, and there's a good description of the house Gaiman grew up in, as well as his room.

Then one day, a paying houseguest commits suicide at a neighbor's, leading the protagonist (who's unnamed through the entire novel) to meet the Hempstocks, who live on a farm at the end of the road. The Hempstocks, however, are not just farmers, and we are quickly introduced to Lettie, her mom Ginnie, and grandmother Old Mrs Hempstock. In a bit of a head fake here, I thought Gaiman was going to reuse the tropes of the three Fates, but instead, the Hempstocks are quite a bit different.

Our protagonist gets taken away on an adventure, but in the tradition of such stories, he fails to obey all the rules exactly, and brings home a hitch-hiker, which proceeds to wreck havoc with his life and his family. The correspondence with Coraline is clear here. The Hempstocks come to the rescue, but the results teaches our young narrator the meaning of sacrifice, as well as the nature of story and the purpose of life.

In many ways, I feel like Gaiman is reusing the same themes from his previous books. Each part of the story draws from so many traditions that the entire novel feels inevitable. The prologue and epilogue, however, nicely frames the story and gives us more than the usual fairy tale. I recommend this book, though not as highly as say, Stardust.
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