Saturday, December 21, 2013

The award for the book that in 2013 did the
Best Job of Hiding in Plain Sight goes to...

...Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Let me explain. 

A few zillion people clearly loved this novel, and even more love its author.  It was a New York Times best seller, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive (were there any negative reviews, outside the unavoidable set from Amazon readers?), and tickets to Gaiman's signings were almost as coveted as dinner reservations at Per Se (but way easier to obtain).  Critics commented on its many virtues, with its lovely rendering of various aspects of childhood among them.  The book was indeed all of that, and I quite enjoyed it.

What I've yet to see anyone comment on (well, anyone except the author indirectly via a blog post from his wife) is what struck me as the deepest, truest heart of this book (and if you don't think books have many hearts, you're not paying attention):  It was a love letter.  A long, complex, bravely told love letter, a letter that exposed the author's weaknesses, a letter of love and gratitude, not just for the love given back to him, but also for the love that helps anchor him in this world even as he explores others.

I don't know Neil Gaiman.  I have no insider knowledge.  I may be way off base here, seeing something that is not there, as we all do in books, those we love and those we hate.

But I don't think so.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a wonderful, brave love letter hiding in plain sight as a best-selling fantasy.  If you have not already read it, you should, both for what everyone has seen in it and for this.

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