The Kindle Edition is $1.99 on Dec 18th only.
Takeaway: The world of adults can be scary for children.
I have read, and in most cases re-read, all of Neil Gaiman’s adult novels. (I have read most of his children’s books and some of his short stories as well, but none of his graphic novels.)
Neil Gaiman continues to be one of my favorite modern novelists. And he is definitely among my favorite audiobook narrators. (As an aside he has a free audiobook of A Christmas Carol if you are interested.)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is hard to categorize. It is mostly about a child, written in the voice of the man reflecting back on that childhood. Its’ outward form is a spooky fairy tale.
Because much of it is in the voice of a seven year old boy, some might take it to be a children’s book. But its content is not always appropriate. (At one point he describes seeing his father, presumably in the influence of magical power, having sex with the boy’s babysitter. There is also death and the near murder of the boy.)
The story, like many fairy tales (and almost all of Gaimain’s books), is about what it means to grow up and face the hard things in life.
On a second reading, I am not sure I liked it quite as much. The story is fairly simple. I remembered it as being a longer book. I still enjoyed it. I still recommend it, especially as an audiobook with Gaiman narrating. This was commissioned as a short story. At the end of the book, Gaiman thanks the original commissioner and his publisher for working with him when he realized that this was more than a short story. But it still has the feel of a novella.
I still contend that the world needs more fairy tales for adults. The fairy tale view of the world through the concept of the deeper ideas of myth and fantasy seems to get at something that cannot be achieved through non-fiction or many other realistic fiction styles. And I still recommend Stardust and Neverwhere as the two best books that Gaiman has written, and the two best fairy tales for adults. And the Ocean at the End of the Lane is still third in that list.