I have a confession to make: I haven’t been doing a lot of reading lately. This is really unusual for me–I normally average 2 or 3 books a week, but I’ve actually only read two books over the last three weeks. There’s a good reason for this, I promise! I’m on a self-imposed deadline to finish AMD&B by the end of October (and I’m on track, too!). So I’ve been doing a lot of writing, but not a lot of reading.
Part of me wants to review both books that I read, but I can’t do that. They were both really good, but one, of course, stood out. So I’ll stick to the one that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about, the one that spoke to the deepest parts of my heart. That, of course, is The Ocean At the End of the Lane.
Okay. Another confession. I haven’t read everything that Neil Gaiman has ever written. I adored the ones that I’ve read (Stardust was my favorite until now) but there are definite gaps on my bookshelf. But The Ocean At the End of The Lane is incredible and I’m so happy my friend Shannon lent it to me.
The Ocean At the End of The Lane is beautiful. It’s a story of childhood and fear and magic and truth that’s all wrapped up in the story of a lonely little boy and his only friend, the mysterious Lettie Hempstock. I don’t even know where to begin this review–this book spoke straight to my heart. I felt like this book was written for me, which is an incredible and almost magical feeling. I don’t want to spoil anything, give away any of the magic.
“Growing up, I took so many cues from books. They taught me most of what I knew about what people did, about how to behave.”
I don’t think this is a perfect book. But it’s as close to perfect as any book that I’ve read in a long time. There’s something that we’re told, as writers, over and over again: write what you know. Even when you are writing the most fantastical fantasy or the weirdest scifi or the most sweeping historical saga: write the truth. Write what’s true for your characters. Give your readers something to identify with, something to understand. Write what terrifies you, write what moves you, write what fills your heart and makes it soar. Write the bits of you that you want to put in a box and bury and never revisit again. Write what hurts and what heals. Write truth.
In The Ocean At the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman wrote the truth.
As writers, there’s so much we can learn from this book both on a technical level and a personal level. So–read it. And learn. And remember that the best fiction happens when we are brave enough to open ourselves up and bleed all over the page.