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

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Published: 2013 by William Morrow
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 181
Format: Hardcover
Source: Giveaway
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Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, opens as the narrator returns to his childhood home for a funeral.  He slips away from the crowd and is visited by memories of the past.  When the narrator was a child, his parents struggled with money, and took in a boarder who later committed suicide.  When the police involved to investigate, the narrator struck up a friendship with Lettie Hempstock, a girl from a neighboring farm.

Lettie has a unique perspective of the world, insisting that the pond on her farm is really the ocean.  Like the pond, the Hempstocks are more than they seem.  By spending time with Lettie, the narrator discovers that magic is real.

This is my favorite Neil Gaiman novel so far.  It’s hauntingly beautiful, and highlights the transition from childhood to the world of adults.  The writing is exquisite and profound.

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 found joy in the things that made me happy.  The custard was sweet and creamy in my mouth, the dark swollen currants in the spotted dick were tangy in the cake-thick chewy blandness of the pudding, and perhaps I was going to die that night and perhaps I would never go home again, but it was a good dinner, and I had faith in Lettie Hempstock.

This dichotomy between childhood and adulthood served as a motif throughout the novel.  The adults in the story tried to protect the narrator from the impact of poverty, but he realizes that he has to give up his bedroom.  The villain combined the most nightmarish evil stepmother trope with a conniving seductress.  The troubles and imagination of a child are blended with the concerns of the adults, creating a strangely magical world that leaves readers vaguely unsettled.

If you haven’t read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I recommend picking it up immediately.

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12 comments

    1. Hmmm…I am so in love with Neverwhere that I almost don’t want to read another book by Gaiman. Sort of like savoring perfection and holding onto that last spring breeze. Your review has lit a new fire under me!

      1. It’s quite good, and also completely different. Neverwhere has more of a dark urban magical feel, whereas Ocean is more haunting and reflective. You should definitely read it!

    1. I wonder which parts specifically were from his own life. I hope he didn’t have a nanny that horrible. She was nightmarish in a way that reminded me vaguely of something out of Roald Dahl.

      1. I was thinking that he was probably quite a bookish boy – hopefully he didn’t have a party where nobody turned up! You can imagine him coming from a slightly middle class yet dysfunctional family – and I mean that in a really good way – you can imagine somebody having a nanny and the whole affair with the father – it would make the children dislike her – even if they didn’t know why. There are some many parts of this that I can imagine being partly based on truth.
        Lynn 😀

        1. I think every family is dysfunctional to some extent. I think that’s part of why this book resonated so well with me. This book capture the world of adult problems as understood by someone younger who isn’t getting the full story, just observing the way the interactions by the adults around him change as a reaction to it.

          I can see Neil being kind of a loner though and just running around and exploring. I did see where he wrote somewhere that he liked to climb up and down drainpipes because the little boys in books liked to do that. 🙂

  1. I listened to the audio of this a couple months ago and loved it. I still think The Graveyard Book is probably my favourite Gaiman, but I would love to get a print copy of this and reread it at some point. 🙂