The Ocean At The End Of The Line (Neil Gaiman)

Bruh. I don’t know where to start with this book. It’s so weird.

It’s a short book though, over two hundred pages but it took me a week to get through – because I was ill and also because the story was weird. At no point did I feel like I need to continue reading this story. I could just stop anywhere and not be compelled to read because things are just off. I think it has a lot to do with the character that we’re following.

Basically the story is about our unnamed protagonist who goes back to his childhood home and recounts on his childhood – specific events that happened when he was seven which led to him meeting his neighbours Lettie and her family, and then the craziness that followed after.

The ocean at the end of the lane is really just a pond, but is it? Hahaha. I’ll see myself out. But anyway. Yes, Lettie believes the pond to be an ocean and she’s a mysterious character, her and her family. They are magical. And our protagonist finds himself entangled in a monstrous mess which is threatening to put him and his family in danger.

Halfway through, things got really interesting – after the main antagonist showed up. Until then, the plot just meanders through with all these strange characters. People dying, cats dying, strange.

But here’s my issue with the protagonist. Bear in mind the kid is seven in the flashback but I swear to god, he did not read like he was seven-years-old. There was something unusually calm and somber and just really low energy in him. And he was so rational – or at least more rational than I would expect of a seven-year-old. < One might argue that since this story is an older person recounting, he’s processed his memory in a more rational way, so we get a calmer than normal seven-year-old. But even then, the memory felt detached. As a reader, I could never totally put myself in his shoes despite the book being in first person. The flashback felt like it was detached from even the owner of the memory.

And since our protagonist is recounting, we know he and his family survived the threat. Maybe because of that I never felt compelled by the danger. The antagonist seemed like a real threat though, no question there, but the whole sequence of our protagonist running away from the antagonist who’s chasing him didn’t make me feel any rush. I’d put that on the writing – not to say the writing is bad, it’s actually really good, but good in an offsetting way. Every action, every emotion was so suppressed that I felt like I was watching two people fighting but I didn’t really understand why anything/everything matters which brings me back to my seven-year-old protagonist problem. Even if it was the older version recounting everything hence the calmness despite the calamity, why doesn’t he explain the importance of everything that happened. Why hasn’t he made sense of everything that happened? He’s had twenty-thirty years now, I can’t remember off hand, but why is he still as delirious about the events of his childhood? It’s like he doesn’t trust his own memory and that does show at the end when he’s asking Lettie’s mother about Lettie’s whereabouts. But you know, I get that the idea of that is to possibly invoke the idea of the fragility of memories but to me it feels like some Harry Potter conspiracy theory where conspiracists say Harry actually was still stuck in his cupboard under the stairs and had delusions of being a wizard to cope with the abuse. You know what I mean? And I hate that feeling. I hate unreliable narrators. It just feels like it negates the value of the whole experience – positive or negative.

The protagonist of this story is just weird.

And I don’t understand the message of the book. People on GoodReads are saying there are some implicit philosophies in this book. I get the book sees how adults and children are very different, how children are much more curious things than you expect. How children don’t have a voice and adults may at times have flawed voices. Our antagonist manipulates and controls people by their raw desires under the belief that it makes them happy. Lettie and her family have their own set of philosophies and opinions on life and adults and creatures of the dark.

But whatever the philosophies are… At the end of the book, what was the point of our protagonist’s life since the incident? Like what has come out of the learnings? What kind of person has he grown up to be? I don’t get it.

I do think it’s nicely written though. Would I recommend this book? Hmm. Yes because I do find the writing some kind of hypnotic in a very detached way, close enough to get into the story but far enough to be able to put it down. If you’re in the mood for something offsetting and strange, go for it. But no loss not reading it. HAHAHAH.

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