Ah, Neil Gaiman, you clever boy.
He is truly a brilliant author. I don’t like everything he’s written (and was rather relieved to see that his own wife, Amanda Palmer, feels that way too, as she wrote in this blog post–“American Gods” is also the example I use of what I didn’t enjoy, in addition to the frustrating ending of “The Graveyard Book”), but what I do like, I love. “Stardust?” Absolutely beautiful, in the prose and the love story and the sprinkles of comedy. “Anansi Boys”? Hands down the best example of character growth I can think of, aside from maybe Samwise Gamgee. Plus so much more, like “Neverwhere” and “Coraline” and “Fragile Things.” He’s quirky, creative, and a magical blend of English and American sensibilities.
I finished reading his newest novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” It didn’t unseat Anansi Boys or Stardust as my favorites, but it’s high up there. There’s just this amazing spirit that Gaiman is able to imbibe into his books, and he really makes the words and images stick with you. I could picture everything so well as it happened. The characters and their speech are each distinct, which is another writing trick I admire and am struggling to improve on in my own stories.
A lot of reviews had plot spoilers, and I hope most people are able to avoid those before they read it so they can fully enjoy the mystery as it unravels. Suffice it to say that it’s a story about a first person narrator (a boy, never named), his friend Lettie Hempstock, and an adventure. There’s a lot of empathy it draws out of the reader, and lots of lovely quotes I couldn’t help but underline–many about adulthood from the eyes of a child. It’s much shorter than his other novels; I expected something the size of Anansi Boys, but the hardback is even slimmer than the Graveyard Book’s hardback.
It’s more along the lines of “Neverwhere” than anything else, so if you liked that, you should like this. But even if you like any Neil Gaiman in general, or “urban fantasy” (the closest genre I can think of to fit this book), or… Peter Pan (haha you’ll see), it’s worth reading. It’s strange and beautiful, like most of Gaiman’s writing, and will draw you fully into it. I finished the book, closed the cover, and was almost surprised to be sitting on my long green couch in my tiny living room in the real world.
Highly, highly recommended.