Elise Hurst’s dramatic fine art gives the story an even greater, creeping feeling of darkness
The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Illustrated Edition) by Neil Gaiman and Elise Hurst
In 2013 Neil Gaiman released The Ocean at the End of the Lane to much acclaim and critical praise – as is often the way with new Neil Gaiman releases. The blurb to the book begins thus:
"A man returns to the site of his childhood home where, years before, he knew a girl named Lettie Hempstock who showed him the most marvelous, dangerous, and outrageous things, but when he gets there he learns that nothing is as he remembered."
My review is reprinted below, and you can read Ryan and Michelle’s reviews here.
Unbeknownst to me, however, Neil Gaiman has this month released an illustrated edition of The Ocean featuring the artwork of renowned Australian fine artist Elise Hurst, whose work has filled over 50 books, written either by herself or by a range of wonderful authors.
An already dark story to begin with, Elise Hurst’s dramatic fine art gives the story an even greater, creeping feeling of darkness. Not intended to horrify, the book – both the pages, text, and artwork – is nevertheless done all in black and white. The solid hardcover of this new edition brings the only hint of colour with Elise Hurst’s fine-line artwork done in blues, blacks, and whites.
Throughout the book – which is sparsely illustrated, but illustrated where it matters – Hurst’s artwork hints, rather than specifically depicts, and lends the book a further mysterious and ghostly quality.
In the end, then, this illustrated edition evokes the ghostly and melodramatic feel of Gaiman’s original story but without elevating it much above the original work.
There are times when a reviewer simply needs to go have a troll through some of the other reviews in an effort to get an idea of what people are saying about a book. ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman seems to be reviewing rather well – receiving 4.4 stars out of 5 from 568 customer reviews on Amazon.com and 4.25 out of 5 stars on Goodreads with 19,969 ratings.
Which leaves me feeling a little like the odd-duck out, considering I didn’t feel the same obsessive-compulsive love for it that so many others have.
Billed as Gaiman’s first adult book since ‘Anansi Boys’, I can see why some would be confused by the intended audience. While the book does revolve around a 7 year-old Neil Gaiman, the book is definitely a book of reminiscence, rather than a book for young adults or teenagers.
I was disappointed with this book, though not for some of the reasons I have seen others voice. I rather liked the story, as it had the sense of childhood fantasy that is simply lost when you grow up. The characters were rich and there was no happy ending, all of which makes for a very realistic tale.
However I simply feel that Neil Gaiman tried too hard to make this book a competitor for ‘The Night Circus’ or something similar. Overly wordy sentences and paragraphs abound, in this book. The “authentic and compelling”-ness that so many reviewers are commenting on seems dumped on top, rather than grown from the bottom up, as if Gaiman wanted to write a “genuine” book and therefore tried so hard to write one that he forgot how to let it be genuine.
It took me a long time to read this book, though it should have been a quick read, given its size and readability. I imagine that many will enjoy this book thoroughly, and I do recommend it to you; but I caution you to allow your own thoughts to praise the book, and not the pressure of the thousands and popular-literati.
Review by Joshua S Hill
7/10 from 1 reviews
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