Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 52: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Unknown-1Longtime readers may remember that Neil Gaiman and I have a bit of an up-and-down relationship. Sometimes (Stardust, Neverwhere), he and I are on the same page. Sometimes (Coraline, The Graveyard Book), I have trouble deciding what I think about him. And sometimes (hello, American Gods), I just can’t even. I think a lot of my issues with Neil Gaiman boil down to the fact that I am a geek, and therefore, I am supposed to love Neil Gaiman. And while I think he is a wonderfully talented and imaginative writer, he just might not be the writer for me.

And this is pretty much how I felt while reading TOATEOTL (how’s that for an acronym?). I liked it just fine. I thought parts of it were quite lovely, actually. But did I love it? No. Would I put it at the top of a list of my books of the year? No. But should you read it? Sure. Yes. Indeed.

By now, almost everyone knows the story. An unnamed narrator returns to his childhood home for a funeral. While visiting his former neighborhood, he starts to remember things he hasn’t thought of in 40 years…and the story takes off from there.

Mostly told from the perspective of a bookish, lonely, 7 year old boy, we are soon thrown into a story of memories. And the thing about memories is…are they always completely reliable? Does our now-grown narrator actually believe the things he’s started to remember once he pulls up to the Hempstock farmhouse? Or does he just not want to believe these things, because, really, how could they possibly be true?

I liked the fact that the bulk of the story was told by a 7 year old. I liked his innocence and the complete trust he had in his new friend Lettie. I loved his ability to be bowled over by a delicious piece of honeycomb, when really, he had other things he should have been worrying about. And I loved the pure way that he looked at the world and its people, in a very black/white, good/evil manner.

And to be honest, I liked a lot more about the story. And I found it pretty scary. The stuff with his dad and the bathtub? Terribly frightening. The woman made of pink and grey cloth? Eek!

So what am I so “bleh” about? Honestly, I’m not even sure. But I just don’t “enjoy” the Neil Gaiman experience as much as I would like. This wasn’t a very long book, but I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me over a week to read it. I just didn’t really care. The pages (some of which, yes, were beautifully written), just didn’t call out to me. Sorry.

But I’ll keep trying. One of these days the right Neil Gaiman book might just come along, and I’ll be ready for it when it does.

You can read more of my reviews — Neil Gaiman included — on my blog.

8 thoughts on “Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 52: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

  1. Congratulations! And I can totally relate. Like you, I enjoyed the book, but I also wanted more than it gave me. I love everyone else’s enthusiasm and understand why they loved it so much but for me, there was just something slightly missing, and I’m not even sure how to word it. Neil Gaiman is an author I enjoy and some of his stuff I really, really like but I also feel like I’m not quite as into him as I should be.

    • Thanks!
      I’m so with you. The fact that there’s “something slightly missing” is exactly what I’m feeling, and I don’t know what it is or what I want it to be. I just know that it isn’t there.

  2. Which of his books have you read? I’m with you on not always getting into him like I feel I should, but a few of his books are just lovely. Stardust is great and The Graveyard Book is one of my favorites (it also helps to know it’s a re-imagining of The Jungle Book)

  3. I’ve read Stardust, Neverwhere, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. I’ve tried reading Odd & The Frost Giants (didn’t do it for me) and American Gods (couldn’t get into it at all).
    Out of those, I think I liked Neverwhere the best, but also enjoyed Stardust quite a bit.

  4. I’m sorry, I completely missed that you’d made it to 52. Congratulations! I can totally see why you feel the way you do about Gaiman, my husband feels the same way. I and so many of our friends tend to really love Gaiman’s work, and it just doesn’t quite do it for him. I actually find his short fiction better than his big novels (Sandman is in a category of its own, and it’s mostly amazing). Have you tried Smoke and Mirrors or Fragile Things, his short story collections? In many ways, I find that he manages his many grand ideas better when he doesn’t have too much time to digress.

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