This is one of the very few books that has managed to leave me in tears (of joy and uncontrolled laughter) after every few pages. Good Omens, written by the unsurpassable Neil Gaiman and Terry […]
Neil Gaiman’s mild horror novella Coraline (2002) is a book I keep returning to whenever I find myself missing my own mother, and that is definitely the case today, during the Mother’s Day weekend. The story of Coraline is one where numerous contemporary parents and children could recognize themselves: the desperately bored little girl looking for adventure and companionship, loads of time on her hands, the constantly busy, mildly disinterested parents, the geriatric part-senile neighbours, the appeal of the unknown. The straightforward third-person-narrative limited to Coraline’s perspective and matter-of-fact retelling of the events and conclusions drawn by the child-protagonist provides for a riveting story with a powerful message. As a masterful stylist that he is, Gaiman effortlessly pulls his readers into the story transporting them among the reality, the dream, and the dreamlike reality of Coraline’s world while leaving enough of murky space in-between to allow them to either embrace the button-eyed fantasy or hold tightly onto the clear-cut reality.
Dark nooks and crannies inhabited by ghouls, trolls, and hags, the monsters under the bed, the suspicious stranger in the street, the thing that creeps outside the window as soon as the night falls – do any of these ring a bell? Numerous highly individualised and vivid fears worm their way into the mind of a child. The fact that the adults do not have the time to listen to your theories and even take into consideration that they might be true does not make things any better. You are left to your own devices, and finding ways to cope with your fears and keep the monsters at bay is definitely one of the challenging phases of growing up. You can consider yourself lucky if you have a friend who will lend you an understanding ear, otherwise you are in a very vulnerable and precarious position. The children’s vulnerability, the ability to see through the adults surrounding them, and the invisible supernatural ties palpable only to the child’s fingers are used in Neil Gaiman’s works to convey a deep message that does not divulge itself easily to an adult eye.
In The Ocean at the End of the Lane the narrator returns to his hometown for a funeral and finds himself randomly revisitingsome key places from his childhood. The perception changes significantly upon one’s transition to adulthood and everything that had once seemed large and significant now assumes a somewhat shrunken and drab appearance. Thus the narrator comes to the ‘ocean’ at the end of his lane and finds that it is but a duck pond. However, the ocean at the end of the lane has a much larger significance as a trigger for all the memories from long ago to start flooding back. The childhood reminiscences and perceptions are seen through the prism of both the narrator’s and the reader’s adult perception and an excerpt from the narrator’s family story is revealed in a somewhat different light.