I read Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" this weekend. It took me a bit to get into it, but then I just hit my stride and read the whole thing.
Initially I picked it up because of the author alone and my enjoyment of "American Gods," but this one straddles the fantasy and reality line so thinly that I really enjoyed it.
Here is my take on it:
1. If you have the time to block out the rest of the world and just read this book cover to cover in one sitting/breath DO IT.
2. It will absorb you in almost every manner of thought.
3. We ALL had a childhood of good, bad, or indifferent that involved grownups and life changing events. This is a view of that childhood from a child's point of view.
4. It is a child's point of view and memory of events, remember that as you read it as an adult. This is not simple adult version of a child's point of view. IT IS the child's point of view.
I really loved this book.
There are passages in which a young girl is leading the story and reaching out to lead you with her hand. She is not narrator but her voice is equally as strong in the story. The narrator is a middle-age man who has shed his age and returned us to his childhood. In particular just a few days of his childhood. He gives a background leading up to the events in the story yet seamlessly moves us from background to events to present day in the book.
There are parts of the book that are not just words but full images and memories of our own. Most of us had a point in childhood where our imaginations took us far into a fantasy world where we could be powerful and magical and our size and age did not matter. Neil Gaiman takes us into the world with his narrator. Instead of completely dissolving into the fantasy, he keeps reality and "this world" in tandem and along side the fantasy.
We can all say "it's just a fence covered with crows," but what we see is a crotchety being covered with carrion birds waiting to take our soul to another place. We see and know the "reality" but feel and experience the magical.