Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
The Short Take:
This charming short novel is much gentler than Gaiman’s usual. It actually reminded me of Alice Hoffman’s work. It was pure magic — both literally and figuratively. It was also an interesting commentary on adults as children see them and as they see themselves.
If you shun magical tales, I guess you’ll miss this one. That’s too bad. It’s utterly entrancing and scattered throughout are observations about parents, children, and their relationships that will definitely give one pause.
As someone who spent much of my own childhood “hiding inside books” I could particularly relate to the first person narrator, a lonely young boy. Perhaps that made me like the book more. Regardless, I was enchanted by the writing style. It felt like it came from a seven-year-old’s mind, yet a seven-year-old with unusual insights. Perhaps that’s why Gaiman had his character observe that children don’t tell adults certain things because they would not be believed.
It’s a frightening tale, with a life-threatening presence disrupting the boy’s family and possibly taking his life. However, there are moments of great comfort, love, and protection as well.
This book is aimed at adults, though young adults and older children will certainly want to read it. Be aware that it could be quite frightening to some kids. Gaiman’s books can be disturbing. His Coraline was aimed at all audiences, but I suspect it inspired many, many nightmares.
A Little Plot:
The events of the book are remembered by the protagonist some 40 years after they occur, as he sits by the duckpond that is the “ocean” of the title.
He remembers the 11-year-old girl, Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother who helped him overcome a great evil in his life — an evil that occurred because he let go of Lettie’s hand at the wrong time and place.
He, his family, his community, and even this whole world are ultimately at risk. But Lettie and her family are determined to protect him.
You can learn more about Gaiman and his work by clicking here. He has written a number of books for children. If I were you, I would read them first. And I mean that two ways.