The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman Old review recycled:

After Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is already the second bestselling book in quick succession I liked just as much as the majority of readers did.
I hate it when this happens.

But I believe the book's popularity is not only rooted in Gaiman's popularity as a writer.
I think it simply speaks to a lot of people.
It spoke to me on a very personal level.

The epitaph already sets the tone:

„I remember my childhood vividly... I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them.“
Maurice Sendak


Terrible things indeed:

Childhood isn't a happy place. Growing up isn't fun. It's painful, it's demanding, every day you lose something, irrevocably, just to be finally deemed an adult and notice that it was all to no avail because you're none the wiser, you still don't have any answers, there are still monsters hiding under your bed*. You're still afraid.

(Don't get me wrong, I like being an adult. I like it much better than being a child. At least now I have an illusion of control over my live, over my decisions. While I still can have laser-sword fights with my friends or play with Dalek action figures. To make the cats chase them, not for my personal entertainment. Of course.)

But as an adult it's already the second time you learn this lesson. The first time you learned it as a child:

Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.


It's a terrifying lesson.
That's what this book is about. About the terrors of being a child and the betrayals you have to face.
About how adults tend to forget, how time softens the edges of this scary place called childhood, how grown-ups idealize what hurt them.
At least this is what it told me.

I also liked the way all this was told. Referencing myths and children stories and fairy tales and wormholes , brewing up something essential, something true. Some people have called the prose bland, others have called it poetic. I call it laconic, and melancholy. The laconic style is one of the styles I love the most because being sparse, yet emotional is probably one of the hardest things to write. It's also, in my opinion, the right voice, the right prose for this kind of story.

On a final note, I don't like it when my personal history gets in the way of judging a book.
While it's impossible to separate my experiences from my perception of a story, I try to not to make them the linchpin of my verdict. As far as that is possible.
I hate it when I fail.

Reading should be about the book, not about me.
This was all about me.

And now I ended up writing a navel-gazing review that tells you nothing about the book, but a lot of things about me nobody's interested in, the kind of review I don't like to read myself.
I can just say „I'm sorry“ for this time. I will do better.

*Mine's a crocodile and it's called Fred. In case you're interested.