Two days ago I (thrillingly) got to see Neil Gaiman talk about his new book, billed by many in the run up to its publication as his best. This couldn't be entirely true, I thought. After all, he's written some real blinders in the past...Having just come up for air, my vision still swimming with lovely tears, I'm thrilled to say I was wrong.
A novel about childhood and memory, fear and love, that's told with a wonderful simplicity and bruises your heart while making it swell, raising goosebumps all the while - if I'd given in to my urges to highlight all of the wonderful passages that resonated so deeply inside me, my book would now be one big highlight.
Our seven year old narrator feels like the child I might have been and it was deliciously easy to wrap myself up in his world, captured by the magic and wonder of childhood while trying desperately to be brave and make sense of a lonely world that can be so casually cruel. He soon stopped feeling like a character to me, and more like a little boy I once knew.
At one point, he observes:
"I liked myths. They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories. They were better than that. They just were."The best books are like that, making you forget you're reading someone's invention. In the very best way, I wouldn't tag The Ocean At The End Of The Lane as an adult's book, or a children's book. To paraphrase Mr Gaiman, it's better than that. It just is.
Now come here, and give me a hug.