Friday, January 10, 2014

Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

So, as my sister pointed out in the comments of my last post I have completely forgotten to write about the book that shall henceforth be known as Ocean because TOATEOTL is a pain to type. Although oddly pleasant to say. Also, sounds like Cthulhus lesser known and less sinister younger cousin. Since I borrowed it from her (and nagged her for it) she naturally has wotsit Reasons to Ask, if only to ever know if she can demand it back wot wot wot. So yes, I have read it.

In the novel a middle-aged author returns to the place where he lived as a child, and as he's walking around the changed neighborhood he comes across the Hempstock's farm, and suddenly remembers The cover of Ocean is best from the back - I just ambitiously attempted to take a picture but since it's dark now there was flash and it didn't work; also, it was hard to also not get my ratty pajama trousers, messy living room and thumb in the photo so I abandoned the project and my oft-spoken-of promise to make the blog more interesting by adding pictures. The front is a girl in water, but the back is a photo of Neil himself, as a child, half-way up (or down) the outside wall of a house, balancing on the pipes. And it's just perfect for the book, which is clearly based to some extent on childhood memories (in the acknowledgments he phrases it as a thank you to his family for letting him plunder the landscape of his childhood). The beginning of the book even reads like a genuine autobiography, to the point where I almost decided to put it down since I'm not that interested in Gaiman's writing to read his genuine childhood memoirs. The back blurb doesn't give much away and I hadn't read up on the book in advance. But I stuck with it for those few extra pages and soon it all swerved into more familiar fantasy territory. And then the strength of the book became the little boy's story and relationship with his family, with the fantasy story just a vehicle to explore how vulnerable children are, exposed to their parents' whims. (The scenes that stick with me are the ones where his parents, influenced by the Creature, completely betray him. This is the work of the Creature, but that's just in the story. In real life we know that kids are betrayed all the time - in fantasy we can pretend that some outside magical influence causes it so that the parents are not to blame, but that's just in fantasy. The escapist solution for tormented kids.)

Anyway, so the end goes on a bit and doesn't feel really - true? necessary? believable? Ha. But I  liked it, and it wasn't long, so yay. I'd like to re-read it sometime.


li'l sis said...

I think TOATEOTL sounds like the Aztec god of Sobriety =D

bani said...