Following Gaiman to the ‘End of the Lane’

There are plenty of things to like about Neil Gaiman. His inventiveness, his willingness to go to dark places (even in his books for children), his grasp of myth and lore, his humor.

I think what I appreciate most is how Gaiman trusts his readers. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, his latest novel, is a prime example of that. The narrator relates the tale of how the Hempstocks save him from an unimaginable fate at the hands of dark, mystical creatures. The Hempstocks themselves, while appearing to be somewhat simple farm folk, have their own power and wield it prudently and cautiously.

But while the narrator gives us a full accounting, the Hempstocks don’t. Young Lettie and her kin are more than happy to show what is on the face of things and ramble on about their actions, but never let our young man get an in-depth feel for who they are, how they do what they do, or what is really going on.

Gaiman did this effectively in American Gods and masters it in Ocean at the End of the Lane. Give the details of the story, but leave some surrounding, mystical aspects more fuzzy. Trust the reader to make the connections, fill in the gaps, engage with the text. It’s an enormous amount of trust Gaiman is showing, and for the reader, it makes the novel that much more rewarding.

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