The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
This is the first book that comes to my mind when I think about recent reads that have moved me and made me recommend it to everyone I met.
I first came across Gaiman’s work when I read his calendar of short stories– a twitter project in collaboration with Blackberry. It wasn’t a horoscope or anything, but I remember quickly scrolling down to my birth month, with excitement to what it had in store for me, to meet the story that belonged to me. I was delighted and this was how I tumbled into the world of Gaiman, one month at a time. I loved what he had given my month and in a way me.
Ocean came out in the middle of the year and the internet was abuzz with anticipation. The excitement was palpable. It reminded me of the time when people would eagerly await the next Harry Potter book, some with bated breath and others smug with pride about having pre-ordered the next literary phenomenon.
I got the book early on, but didn’t manage to read it at the time, it was borrowed a couple of times before I got to it, each reader urged me to gobble it up as soon as possible.
One morning after I finished my daily ablutions – trying to write and failing, thinking about my future, thinking about the state of the world and humanity, sipping on my cup of chai, I looked at my copy of the book and it called out to me. Encouraging me to pick it up and get to know the people in the book, who were waiting for me.
That morning I fell into the ocean and learned how to swim there, feeling wave after wave of excitement, fright, companionship, awe and enchantment rock me, only to be reluctantly spat out in the evening when my work was done, I knew the story. I now had to introduce it to others. It was part of the magic of the ocean, it needed to shared for it remain alive, for the magic to be real and tangible more people needed to know about it and take a dip in that ocean.
The best part about the book is the story feels as much mine as it does of the author. I think I left a part of me in that copy of the book and a part of the book lodged itself in me somewhere.
The story is part fantasy, part philosophy and all heart. Gaiman has said in many interviews that he started writing the book as a way to tell his wife, Amanda Palmer, about his childhood and himself, most of which was spent lost in book, just like the protagonist. That is another reason that makes this book special, all of us look for the author in the novels we read and here is a book that gives you a glimpse into the mind and background of this fascinating man. I have stalked him shamelessly on social media and was delighted to meet a young intern at my previous job who did the same. It soon became our weekly ritual to stalk Gaiman and his partner Palmer. But, here was something that revealed a lot more about him and I cherish it for that reason. There is no point talking about the technique and structure because he is a master of the art and each of his books a master class in writing, storytelling and thinking.
Pick this one up because you will be the better for it and there will be more people who will know about the magical ocean, we will all have a common secret world.
It will be amazing.