Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Published June 18, 2013 by William Morrow and Company
[Goodreads][Amazon][Indigo Chapters]


Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.


Okay, this is going to be my last review of a Gaiman book for a long while...or at least until he comes out with something new. I'm sure you're all sick of me tooting his horn but what can I say? I am a fan! In compliments to my recent adventure to see Neil Gaiman live, I felt it was necessary for my next post to be about why he was touring - his new book, of course! It has already debuted as the number one as a New York Times Bestseller and already, the rights to make this novel into a film has already been acquired by Focus Features.

So what's my impression of Ocean at the End of the Lane? Well, I admit that I was surprised about the small size of the book! I guess you could say I was used to the lengthy numbers from American Gods or Neverwhere but this didn't distract from the lovely pacing of the book. Although a short read, it didn't feel like it was too quick to pass, and it was really reminiscent of the feeling I got when I first read Coraline. It's something that I really enjoyed about reading Ocean -- how the tale could span through an array of demographics despite age or gender.

Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Coraline, and now Ocean at the End of the Lane have something in common with each other - young characters facing monsters; Gaiman understands fairy tales, creatures, childlike fears and things that haunt us in the darkness. Curiosity brings us to these places and great storytelling makes us stay. The author clearly demonstrates over and over how his mind floats in wonderment and childlike imagination (which, as a creative type, I sometimes envy.)

If I were to describe this story, I would call it childhood. I would call it nostalgic. I would describe it as haunting and very, very real. How does a work of fiction become real? By the way you relate to it, by how you envisioned the adult world but also by what you thought of as terrifying. Most of all, as a child, how much did you understand about your own world? Perhaps, the adults just never understood your world.

I love Ocean at the End of the Lane. I really do. Although it was short, I felt that it was what I was looking for in a summer read - easy but emotionally linking. I particularly recommend this book to any teens and adults, either snuggled up in bed (be sure to check under it first) or out and about under the shade of a tree.

Rating: 5/5 Bookworms


  1. Beautifully written, the book is a breath of fresh air; something that is characteristic of Neil Gaiman. He paints his inspiration in ink and leaves his readers with the most raw and potent images he can. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a magnificent addition to his earlier work and firmly establishes and reaffirms why the author is regarded as one of the finest Fantasy writers alive.

    I might be biased in my opinion, but as someone who reads a LOT of fantasy, it's always a pleasure to read such a well-written, cohesive book.

    In terms of characterization, Gaiman creates memorable personalities. The narrator is as close to a reader as possible, rendering his fears into extensions of your own. Every character is there for a reason.

    Critics may label this book a "Children's Book" and perhaps they're right. Every word is chosen with care and every thought is coated with just the right amount of subtlety. The difference though, is that Gaiman layers his work with images that linger in every reader, irrespective of age.

    I would encourage you to read it because you never know when the neighbourhood pond might become your own ocean and your imagination kindles anew

  2. I read this book as a thoroughly enjoyable allegory, joining the great tradition of Gulliver's Travel and CS Lewis. It was well written and captured me from the moment I started until I finished a few hours later.