The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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Click to visit Neil Gaiman’s website.

 

* CONTAIN SPOILERS

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my first Neil Gaiman novel. I have followed his career for years, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t read or seen anything he has written (if you can believe it). I have the impression that so many readers love him, although the reviews appeared mixed for this book. I had a weird scary dream while reading this book that I can’t remember, but it didn’t stop me from devouring the story.

THE STORY

An unnamed man returns to the farm at the end of the lane from his childhood home. He doesn’t know what compelled him to return, but he knocks on the door and speaks to the woman who is a relative of his childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock. The man sits by a pond at the back of the farm and starts to recall when he was seven years old. He remembers how the mysterious death of a boarder led to his meeting Lettie and her family for the first time. How strange, eerie events turned his world upside down shortly afterwards, especially after the arrival of his family’s new housekeeper, Ursula Monkton. How the world almost came to an end and the ultimate sacrifice had to be made to save it.

THE GOOD

I didn’t know what magic realism was when I started blogging because it wasn’t its own genre when I was a young bookworm. But I always enjoyed stories where there’s something extraordinary in the ordinary, something magical hidden in everyday life just waiting to be discovered. For this reason, I didn’t hesitate to go down the rabbit hole of this story and become completely absorbed in the idea of other-worldly creatures entering our domain or fairy-like women who protect little boys. I enjoyed experiencing this supernatural story as told by the mature narrator remembering events through the naive and innocent eyes of his seven-year old self. Memory seems to be one of the themes in the story. How remembering can be bittersweet because it’s just as good to forget memories stuffed deep down somewhere, as it is to release them from the dark.

THE BAD

I’m not the kind of reader who needs to know everything about characters or the worlds an author creates (how Chicago became the society of Divergent, for example). I’m quite happy to go along for the ride and work with what I’m given. However, my brain got quite muddled trying to follow the explanations in the book for what the other-worldly creatures were and why they were terrorizing the boy, and how Lettie Hempstock and her fairy kin existed in our world and how a pond could be an ocean. Ultimately, it didn’t make much sense to me at all.

CONCLUSION

The Ocean at the End of the Lane felt very much like a children’s book masquerading as adult fiction. Some of the content in the story is definitely not appropriate for a younger audience, so I can understand the classification. As much as I enjoyed the story, I guess I was expecting a story about adults in adult situations, but maybe this just proves how inexperienced I am with Neil Gaiman’s work. He is obviously a very talented and imaginative writer, and this book made a very positive impression on me. What book of his should I read next?

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17 Comments on “The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman”

  1. I really enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but you are right, it has a child-like wonder to it that fits in with a book for younger readers, but it is also pretty mature. I think Neil writes many different kinds of stories (although with the same sort of tone) so you will probably find something of his to love. I know American Gods is so highly regarded by I couldn’t get into it (it is a story about adults though – with magical realism!)

    I would suggest The Graveyard Book (YA) or Neverwhere though if you are looking to try another of his novels!

    • Thank you for the suggestions! I liked his writing and would like to try some of his other books. I think my expectations were misaligned for this one, but it was good!

  2. Naomi says:

    I don’t mind some realism, but I don’t really go for the all-out supernatural. Like you, I felt like I was reading a children’s story, but written for adults. Good review!

    • I think this was a very good book, but I think I need to read more of his books, and others like it, to make a more definitive decision about whether this genre is for me.

  3. Carolyn O says:

    American Gods! So, so good.

  4. kmn04books says:

    I really want to read this book! I won’t read your review (yet) because I don’t want to be spoiled but I hope you enjoyed it!

  5. My favorite Neil Gaiman novel used to be a toss-up between American Gods and Neverwhere. Ocean at the End of the Lane is my new favorite 🙂

    • Thank you for the suggestions. American Gods seems to be a very popular choice. Have you watched the Neverwhere series? I was just reading about it.

      • You mean the old BBC mini-series? I saw one episode, but that was after I read the book. It’s funny, because the book was actually based on the series, rather than the other way around. The series was all right, but I preferred what I saw in my imagination 🙂

  6. The only one I’ve read is American Gods and it is excellent.

  7. lauratfrey says:

    I felt pretty much the same way. Didn’t get the hype. So American Gods it is then!


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