Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Title: Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, YA/Adult Fiction
Pages: 181
Published by: Harper Collins
First Published: June 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Perchase

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark

My Thoughts:

Neil Gaiman accomplished so much in this 181 stand alone fantasy. A good fantasy standalone is impressive, a good fantasy standalone thats under 200 pages is even more impressive. This isn’t a kingdoms-and-swords kind of fantasy, it falls on the paranormal side of things. It’s hard to determine what age group this was written for; while the story does follow a 7 year old boy, it’s told as a memory of his adult self and there are a couple of scenes thrown in that makes one thing certain: it isn’t one of Gaiman’s middle grade books.

If you’re not a fan of the wierd and bizzare then this is defintely not the book for you. It is filled with oddities only an imaginitive mind could have fabricated. There are creatures who’s descriptions aren’t like anything I’ve read before which challenges my mind to expand in creativity.

I thought I was looking at a building at first: that it was some kind of tent, as high as a country church, made of grey and pink canvas that flapped in the guts of storm wind, in that orange sky: a lopsided canvas structure aged by weather and ripped by time.
And then it turned and I saw its face, and I heard something make a whimpering sound, like a dog that had been kicked, and I realised that the thing that was whimpering was me.

The best description I can give to this book is dream like; you’re put in this phantasmagoric setting where everything is upside-down  (and there doesn’t seem to be a limit to imagination) but everything still makes sense and you don’t realize how wacky it really is untill you wake up and try to explain it to someone. Get me?

Because of this it reminded me a bit of Alice in Wonderland; they share similar moods. At times it also reminded me of Roald Dhal’s writing in that this story is more about the nostalgia of childhood than about being a child and occasionally hints to the child within us all.

Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.

The writing style was magical. Gaiman has a talent for story telling. I listened to this in audiobook format as well and it wasn’t any less engaging. Neil Gaiman narrated it himself and he did an excellt job in keeping you in the story which was a relief because if the narrator isn’t great then I tend to not get absorbed in the story and my mind will start to drift.

On the Characters:

Confession time: I had read every page of the story, from beginning to end, and it wasn’t untill after I finished the book that I realized I didn’t know the protagonist’s name. I then found out that the character is nameless.
Yup. I went through the entire book without realizing he didn’t have a name! Just another tally to add to what makes this book odd.
Infact, in realising that, I realised that many of the chracters don’t have names either.
The only ones that have names are Lettie Hempstock (arguably the hero) and Ursula Monkton (the villain). Everyone else was refered to by relation to something. The boy’s family was simply refered to as father, mother and sister; Lettie’s grandma was Old Mrs. Hempstock or Gran and someone else was the Opal Miner.
I found this really interesting. Don’t worry though, it didn’t make the story confusing at all.

On the Rating:

The only reason I took half a star away was that I wish certain things (regarding the Hempstocks references to their world) that were better explained rather than leaving it up to the reader to decipher.

Quotes from the Book:

  • “I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”
  • “Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”
  • “I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.”
  • “Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

  1. Many people have classified this book as not a fantasy, but magical realism. And I agree about how Gaiman can really craft an excellent world in just one book. I really love the writing style in here, Gaiman really creates this magical atmosphere in the story. And those quotes are just wonderful 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought fantasy did sound a bit off to describe this. When I think of fantasy I imagine Game of Thrones or Lord og the Rings, something along those type of stories. But I got the genre from goodreads 🙂 Haha, I was trying not to put so many quotes. It was hard to choose!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent review! This was my first “adult” book by Neil Gaiman (I had only read Coraline before this), and it was a great introduction to his writing style. American Gods took a while to get through because it’s so big and detailed, but it was worth it in the end 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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