If there is a better writer working today, please let me know who it is, because I think Neil Gaiman might be the best fiction writer alive.
Mr. Gaiman doesn’t need a review on a book review blog, nor another review on Goodreads … this book has almost 17, 000 reviews — seventeen THOUSAND — and it is averaging 4.02 out of 5 stars … but I just read it, and it’s fairly new, so I’ll add it to the blogroll.
Gaiman perfectly captures the innocence and, wonder, and imagination of a child and shares it with the reader in such a way that we feel we are reliving that same innocence, wonder and imagination — when a pond was an ocean, a strange nanny was a dark creature of another realm in disguise, and a patch of lawn might be a sacred location for good fairies. We can’t help but feel as if we are reliving those best moments from our own childhood … moments we, like the man recalling the events of the book (a man whose name I don’t think we ever learn), perhaps don’t want to ever forget.
For many writers, being able to capture this sense of nostalgia is enough of a fait accompli, but Gaiman’s ability takes us even further. Gaiman manages to infuse the story with philosophy; a moral code.
Some might even make reference to the obvious Judeo-Christian allegory. In this book we have someone sacrificing their life, warding off evil, to protect an innocent youth. That sacrificer dies. Or maybe doesn’t die. It is suggested that the person will return some day, though just when no one really knows. But the baptism of a new life in water is also a strong element in the allegory.
But this isn’t overt. Unlike too many writers, Gaiman doesn’t hit us over the head with the ideas. He suggests them. He plants them for the reader to nurture if we want. He actually gives his readers credit for being smart enough to pick up on what he’s sharing. More writers should learn from this example.
This book is tender and frightening and sweet and horrifying. It is utter fantasy and all-together real. It will fill the reader with longing, dread, melancholy, and passion. The reader will once again see the world through the eyes of a seven year-old, when anything and everything is still possible, yet there is an awakening to bad things that can happen. Those bad things happen first in a shocking, sudden way, such as a fatal car accident, and a youth learns to deal with it through fantasy evil.
It is difficult to say just what sort of book this is, because Neil Gaiman has created his own genre of fiction. And if you read through the reviews on Goodreads or Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you will see that what he’s done is brought out the best in people because they write their reviews, concentrating on the feelings that were invoked from the reading.
This is powerful mojo that Gaiman has applied!
Looking for a good book? This might be the best thing out there!
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane
author: Neil Gaiman
publisher: William Morrow Books
hardcover, 181 pages