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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Post by annis » Wed July 17th, 2013, 6:35 pm


I loved this story - I’ve lived it, sort of! Like Gaiman's nameless narrator, I was a rather solitary, imaginative, bookish child of the post-war British Empire; that now-distant time of relative affluence and stifling conformity before the advent of televison, computers or mobile phones. I know this Dennis Potter-meets-Enid Blyton world – filtered through the inescapable cruelties and miscomprehensions of childhood, it was a time of cosy certainty for children; roast lamb dinners followed by steamed pudding with custard, and rambles down unsealed, blackberry-hedged country roads long since overtaken by suburban sprawl. But we knew about the borderlands of the wild things, us country kids. Unshielded from the realities of birth and death, of "nature red in tooth and claw", and with the veils of all possibilities still shifting about us, we knew that tigers lived under the bed and that gods and demons were as real as you and I.

I see the influence of much-loved childhood authors lurking beneath the surface of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, authors like Kipling, Tolkien, Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Garner, whose work was shaped by the powerful presence of the natural world, the echoes of an older, more pagan England, the ancient battle between the forces of light and darkness, and the timeless themes of universal mythology; ritual kingship, the Goddess and the hero-quest as the one true story behind all legends.

That the young hero of The Ocean at the End of the Lane should find the Cosmic Ocean in a duckpond on a rundown farm at the end of a rural lane, guarded by the dread Triple Goddess - Maiden, Mother and Crone in the guise of a comfortably down-to-earth farming family - comes as no surprise to me. We fragile, inconsequential humans have always mythologized our lives in order to make sense of a terrifyingly random world beyond our control. And we’ve always known that reality lies in the perception, Gaiman and I.

The man in the mask swings a sword of bright stars

The cloud of his breath is the shroud of the earth.

But the man in the robe from a book reads our fears,

And ticks off the minutes from death until birth.

The woman in white is the mother of hope,

And the twin doves of peace rest on her twin breasts.

But the woman in black, with a knife and a rope,

Is the watcher at gateway,
the guardian of ghosts.

Henry Treece
(A Gaiman favourite)

NY Times review
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/books ... d=all&_r=0

Category: Whatever you want it to be- adult/YA/fantasy/coming-of-age/fairytale/horror story/memoir...
Last edited by annis on Sun July 21st, 2013, 10:26 pm, edited 54 times in total.

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Post by fljustice » Thu July 18th, 2013, 7:42 pm

Lovely review, annis! I read this a few weeks ago and didn't know how to review it, except to say how much I enjoyed it. Your words are spot on!
Faith L. Justice, Author Website

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Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Fri July 19th, 2013, 7:26 pm

Thanks, Faith! Gaiman is such a well of creativity that it would be easy to imagine he's taken a transcendent dip in the Cosmic Ocean himself at some stage along the way :)

The theme of mythic beings at large in the ordinary world is one that Gaiman often revisits (Sandman, American Gods, Anansi Boys), but it taps into a deep atavistic vein and continues to work for him and for us, though clearly some reviewers feel he's reached the "wash, rinse and repeat -yawn" point.

And good fun to see a return of the Triple Goddess, deity of choice and poster girl for the Neo-Pagans and New Apocalyptics of the mid 20th century (Robert Graves, Margaret Murray, Henry Treece et al). She put the shiver into many a childhood story! I'm sure she was also the inspiration for Terry Pratchett's fabulous witches - Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick - to whom Gaiman's Hempstock family bear an uncanny resemblance...
Last edited by annis on Sun July 21st, 2013, 10:17 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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