The Time of the Ghost and Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Time of the Ghost, by Diana Wynne Jones, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

These two were both re-reads, but I specifically wanted to read them together and compare.  I had only read Ocean once, so it was really nice to go back and notice a lot of details that had become fuzzy or that I maybe hadn't noticed the first time around.  I know Time of the Ghost very well.  I have talked about both of them here before--here is my review of Ocean, and here is Time of the Ghost--so I don't want to re-state those thoughts.

When I first read Ocean, I thought it was probably Gaiman's sort-of tribute to DWJ, whom he famously thought a lot of.  Jenny thought so too, and then she actually met Gaiman and he SAID SO and that he thought it was most like Time of the Ghost.  I would like to know much more about his thoughts on that!  Thus this pairing of reading and this post.

I'm not a dedicated Gaiman fan--I always read his books, but I don't follow him online or anything, although I am always so impressed by his speeches on libraries and books and freedom that I really ought to because he says a lot that I think too, only he says it much better--(deep breath, that sentence kind of got away from me there) so maybe he has said something about his thoughts on this and I just don't know it.  (If you know of something, send me a link!)  Honestly if I met him IRL I would probably want to talk about DWJ and her amazingness, and ask him about that.  So.

Elements in Ocean that I see echoing Time of the Ghost include--well, most obviously, an old (ancient) female monster something from another...plane? that wants to suck the life out of people and anything else she can get.  This was a thing with DWJ, hungry mothers and variations thereupon, and I don't remember Gaiman doing it much before. He softens the idea with the Hempstocks, who are at least as ancient, but benevolent.  Also, a preoccupation with the local landscape and the particular homes of people, very detailed.  Anybody notice anything else?  Some images, I think--waving fabric, perhaps, and worms.

It's a good experience, reading them together, so I do recommend it as an interesting exercise.

One last thing--Gaiman opens Ocean with a quotation from a New Yorker article that was a conversation between Maurice Sendak and Art Spiegelman, published in 1993.  I remember that article!  A friend of mine was given it by his sister and I remember the dialog and the drawings on the page vividly. Here is a good copy of it.


  1. OMG, I had not seen that cover for Time of the Ghost before -- scary! I will try to re-read it at some point together with Ocean (which I have not yet read). Right now I'm busy getting ready for Witch Week--hope you'll be joining us!

  2. I certainly will! Looking forward to it!

  3. I think those are the same elements that I saw the two books having in common. In particular, the way he describes Ursula Monkton's evil self, that flapping canvas thing, reminded me very very much of the way Monigan is described in Time of the Ghost. But I'd like to read them side by side as you have -- it does indeed sound like an interesting exercise!


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