The simplicity and imagination contained within childhood seems to grow ever more distant as the stress and reality of adulthood consumes the life of everyday man. But within the hectic reality adults call life, one must find a way to go back, to revisit what seems so long ago. Author Neil Gaiman has found a way to do this.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of Gaiman’s more recent works (originally having been published in 2013; the newer paperback version having been published in June of this year) and is considered to be an adult fairy tale.
What first strikes an adult upon picking up this book is its synopsis. It merely states that a man returns home and is reminded of a dangerous and frightening childhood memory that no child should ever have to live through. This is both mysterious and intriguing and, given the less than 200 pages within the book, seems to be a quick read.
A slow beginning of a man reminiscing about an old home and people he knew when he lived there reminds one of stories such as Willa Cather’s My Antonia or Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs. One begins to think this is just another story of something that could have happened to anyone as a child. However, Gaiman turns this seemingly cliché plot around only forty pages in, making a probable childhood story into an impossible one.
Traits found in many of Gaiman’s works can be found in this book. Darkness, magic, frights, characters many readers could relate to, and anything impossible a child could imagine come to life in this novel. However, not much information can be given without giving away the mystery the synopsis hides from future readers.
Of course, this story is fiction and could never happen and an adult could probably say it was a nice escape from the world and it is proof that the events of childhood shape who one becomes as an adult, but that is not the main point. What an adult should take away from this book is that, after reading it, he or she should feel like a child again, even if for a moment. To be able to believe in the impossible in an unimaginative reality and to dream of days long past when the world itself seemed like a fairy tale.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on August 27, 2014.