Because all of life is stories.
I was planning on doing a different book today, really I was. Had it written up and everything. But that will have to wait for another day. You see I got my hands on a copy of Neil Gaiman’s newest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and finished it this morning all in one sitting. If you’re reading this in the US then today is the release date for this book.
Go out and buy it now. Read it, devour it, give it to all of your friends and then jealously demand it back when they finish it.
It’s a little odd to write this review, because usually you write a review and tell everyone what the book is about. With this one, I don’t think I can do that. Not because of spoilers or anything like that, but because what this book is about, isn’t really what this book is about. On the surface it’s about a young boy and a farm, or an older man remembering past times. But really what it is about is something different entirely.
Ocean is about childhood, or really about the memory of childhood. That time when everything was bigger, when nooks and crannies and secret spaces were stock in trade and adventure lie under every bush, behind every tree and through every hole in the fence. That time when magic was taken for granted as real. That time when adults were unquestionably sure of themselves and your own personal immortality was taken for granted. At the same time there was never enough time for what you wanted and still all the time in the world.
But there was a darker side to all of that wasn’t there? Around every corner was something unknown, both thrilling and terrifying. The unknown was vast, was unimaginably big, all the better to explore but all the easier to become scared. And looking back on it now, how well do you remember your childhood. Things that seemed commonplace and eternal when you were a child seem impossible now. What of your memories really happened, and where does the line between fact and fiction grey out and blur your memory?
Gaiman’s 180 odd page work is a masterpiece. He is the best in the business at creating modern fairy tales that combine the terrifying and the wonderful. Before today I would have told you that Neverwhere was my favorite Gaiman book because it was odd and it was funny and it was wonderfully unique. I would have told you that American Gods was probably his best work because of the sheer exhausting range of his research and his ability to weave the heritages of a dozen cultures together into one big fat joyride through the American mythos and those of all the peoples therein. But today, I will tell you without a doubt that The Ocean at the End of the Lane is his best work, my favorite. It is beautiful, it is sad, it is perfect. It is full of wonder and joy and perfect food and good books and the inimitable courage of children.
The only thing disappointing about it is that I may not read a better book this year.
If you want a good book to curl up with under a tree, to read in bed on a rainy day, this is it.
That’s it. What are you waiting for? Go buy it. Revel in the terrible bigness of childhood.
Seriously. Off you go. I’ll be making tea.