Did you all have a fabulous New Year? I pretty much spent mine hiding indoors with my own bodyweight in chocolate and a few bottles of my favourite tipple. But now things are getting back to normal, so after a week off I’m going to start 2014 with a review.
When I’m not working I tend to read a book slowly. I like to digest the nuances and really envelope myself in the author’s world. It’s not a thought through thing, it just happens like that, and means I can take ages to read one novel, but very occasionally there is a book that I can’t put down. This happens VERY occasionally, in fact I can’t honestly remember the last time it happened.
But it happened this Christmas.
A few months ago I took a trip down to Inverness with my daughter to hear a talk by Neil Gaiman. It needed an overnight stay and when you think about it, it’s pretty mad to spend a stupid amount of money and two days off just so you can listen to an author speak for a couple of hours. But I’m glad to say I wasn’t the only one. The hall was packed and I finally got to hear one of my favourite authors speak about his world. He’s a fascinating, eloquent and beautiful individual, and even put up with a 2 ½ hour queue at the end of the night (of which we were at the very back) to allow people to have their books signed.
Anyway…that’s the background. Before the talk I knew very little about The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
So finally, in the dead days between Christmas and New Year, I sat down with the copy I bought for my husband, and which Neil signed with one word… ‘Dream’.
I sat down at 9pm with the book and a glass of wine… by 2am the wine was drunk, my eyes were tired and the book was still fascinating… I awoke the next morning, opened the book and finished it.
This is a story about childhood, memories of childhood and the magic that comes with it. We never know the name of the main character, but we reach inside his head and his soul. From his seventh birthday party – the one that makes every child’s fears a reality… the one where no-one turns up – to the lodgers, the nanny and the farm at the end of the lane, this book held me captivated from beginning to end. As the adult narrator remembers the short period in his childhood in this house down the lane, I was taken back to my own childhood, only by the farm down my lane there was a meadow with a huge bomb crater left over from the war.
I can’t and won’t tell you the story; this book should have no spoilers. It’s about love, family, life, magic, fear, death and memory. You will probably relate to many of the themes in the book, even if you feel you have never had magic in your life. This book is magic. It will stir memories and feelings… Gaiman superbly puts into words what it is like to be a child, but not in a childish or condescending way. As a child you see the world in a different light, and deal with what happens around you in a way that adults rarely remember. Gaiman puts a child’s perspective into a story that could have been written in a straightforward adult way, but at the very beginning the adult that the child has become falls away into the story and tells it the way it needs to be told.
If you search on the internet I’m sure you will find reviews that give you the story, but I want you to go and read this book. And having had the pleasure of hearing Neil read to us all at the Ironworks in Inverness, to have Gaiman himself reading to you would be a treat if you like audiobooks.
It’s also been named Book of the Year 2013… read it and find out why!