miércoles, 30 de octubre de 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

Summary from Goodreads

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

This is a very special book for me. The first time I read a book written by Neil Gaiman was a long time ago (Anansi Boys, in case you're wondering). And I was hooked. I had been waiting to get my hands on The Ocean at the End of the Lane since I heard of it earlier this year. It was a lot of expectation. And once again, Gaiman simply did it. It went directly to my favorites shelf.

I have been avoiding writing this "review" because I've loved it so much that I feel unable to be coherent about it. I am tempted to just leave it like that. I loved it, that's it. I know I will come back to it many, many times in my future reading life. I can't think of higher praise for a book than it eliciting this raw need for revisiting the world and the characters it contains. I also know I'll want to see what I thought the first time I read it, so here I am.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane threw me down memory lane and made me feel I was seven. Neil Gaiman has definitely never forgotten what is like to be a kid and has captured it in his new novel for adults. This strikes me as curious, since his novels for younger readers always make me remember how responsible and logical little kids can be - how adult they can be. But I guess that is only fair, since:
"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. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."
When their lodger commits suicide at the end of the lane, a monster gets free and starts to wreak havoc on the lives of the inhabitants of this place in Sussex. But the real terror starts even before that, when the young boy has to stop having his own room (and I was stupidly starting to have an odd nostalgia for the little yellow sink just his size). It's terrifying to think of how helpless we were against the illogical adult world, when everyone made every decision for us, but nobody truly asked what we liked or thought was best. We were, in a way, trapped. The monster, a monster empowered by the greedy hearts of the adults, only makes matter worse intensifying that helplessness. Eliminating every little bit of credibility a seven-year-old boy can have. Some times, during the afternoon I spent reading this, I burrowed further inside my blanket-fort to face the scary bits - they made me tense and worried and I forgot I was only reading a novel. And, at the same time, I loved obliterating myself so much that I could be as frighted as the young boy.

The mythology of this book is very similar to that of the traditional fairy tales. And that is one of my favorite aspects of every Neil Gaiman novel ever, the fairy tale-ish world he creates. It's not only a monster that stands for vanity, greed and lust, or the ultimate evil which is void and nothingness, it's also the plucky hero and the three women who hold the threads of fate, the Hempstock women. And the Hempstock farm, with an ever-bright, ever-full moon, extensive land where cats can be harvested and a pond that is possibly also an ocean. It's the perfect blend of straightforward fantasy, quirkiness and (what I've come to identify as) British humor. It's also Neil Gaiman's trademark. And I'll be delighted to revisit this world again.

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