Friday, July 11, 2014

Fiction Friday (31)

As a rule, I typically don't like to read books with a tone similar to one I'm hoping to capture in manuscripts that I'm working on at the time, but last week, I made an exception. I wasn't particularly looking for inspiration, I just really wanted to read this book. In the end, I did find a lot of inspiration that will guide me. But in some ways it is also frustrating to read something so well done, which makes one question their own writing choices. That is another reason why I like to avoid similar books while writing, not because I'm worried it will influence me but rather that it will discourage me. Thankfully, this book did more to inspire than discourage. And though from a place of personal jealously, I'm often upset by authors who receive praise upon praise, in Neil Gaiman's case, I've never felt it was unwarranted and therefore hold no resentment. His latest book is another gem. Enjoy.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
(William Morrow, 2013)

The title of this book alone was enough to have me believe it would be another interesting piece of imagination from the mind of Neil Gaiman. The title phrase alone, "Ocean at the End of the Lane", embodies the type of genius elements that I find in Gaiman's work, these sort of impossible things that exist unnoticed in the world. Coraline was like that, so was The Graveyard Book, and they both convinced me that the inclusion of these mysterious elements was well-suited for children's books, which have always been the realm of acceptable fantasy.

While The Ocean and the End of the Lane isn't a children's book, it does feature a child protagonist and exists within the world of childhood. When a man returns to his childhood home after the funeral of a parent, he visits the farm at the end of the lane where he grew up and then he begins to remember the remarkable tale which he'd inexplicably forgotten.

The story is filled with elements borrowed from fairy tales, myths, and the macabre, blended in an extraordinary way to reveal truths about the nature of the universe and the confusion that comes with being a child in a world that doesn't adhere to the sensible rules of a child's mind. After a man commits suicide on the lane, strange forces are awoken and the three Hempstock ladies, witch-like characters, are tasked with putting things right. The boy in the story inadvertently becomes involved in this drama, and gets caught in the middle of an ancient struggle between good vs. evil. The plot plays out in unexpected ways, capturing the dark spirit of horror and the noble expression of sacrifice.

This is one of those books that I wish would go on and on, but in a weird way, it's brevity proves to be its true genius.

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