Monday, July 31, 2017

Recently Read: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Adult Fiction/ Fantasy/ Magical Realism
Publication Date: 2013
Page Count: 181
Rating: 5/5

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Also by Neil Gaiman:
The Grave Yard Book

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. Goodreads

This is my first adult Gaiman novel, and it was a great one to start with. My brother read this last year and lent my his copy and I finally decided to pick it up on a whim. I had no idea what I was getting into besides that this novel would fit in with my weird reads cravings, and I devoured this novel. After I finished it, I actually opened my notebook and wrote my thoughts about the book and the ideas it presented because they were bursting out of me; that's how I know a book is worthy of a five star rating. 

This novel is narrated by an unnamed man, but he is looking back on his childhood. This adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to the story as the narrator becomes some-what unreliable as time may have tempered with his memories. 

This novel fits in with the like of children's classics such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan as it touches on growing up and the gap between childhood and adulthood. Just like those novels, the story seems simple on the surface but is so complex underneath. The idea of magic or "other-wordly-ness" in the gap between childhood and adulthood is common in classic children's coming of age stories and I loved seeing a modern author take on that idea. This book touches on the complexities of children and childhood experiences and puts words to the inexplicable experience that is growing up. Just like in Alice and Peter, you spend a lot of time off -balance or confused while reading the story, but that is the point that these novels try to make. Growing up is confusing and frustrating and it's an amazing feat that these novels can allow us to experience these feelings again as adults. 

The characters in this novel were super interesting. I loved the Hempstock women and how the setting becomes a character in itself. The way that the magical family of women are represented in this novel is great; they are powerful and wise but also kind and sympathetic. The supernatural elements of this novel are so unique and unlike anything I have read before. This was a world I didn't want to leave when the novel was over. I'm very surprised this hasn't been adapted as a movie yet, as Gaimen's writing is so clear, the novel runs as a movie in your head.

Gaimen is an amazing storyteller; my brother says he writes every book like the story actually happened to him, and I agree. I really want to get to Gaimen's back catalog of works soon. Let me know where I should start! 


  1. You got this one 100% right. I didn't love the book, but that's entirely my own fault. The book is great, and its underlying themes are great. Neil Gaiman is a great storyteller, and I think I read that this is his most autobiographical work. I actually listened to this one on audio and Neil was the narrator, which was really amazing. If you ever reread, I recommend trying out the audio. =)

    1. Oh! I bet that would be a great audio experience! I thought Gaimen might have been over-hyped, but this novel has started to convince me I might be wrong. I will have to do more investigating.
      Thanks for stopping by!