Friday, June 21, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is magical, a fairy tale telling a story as old as the
world. And, if the fairy tale has elements of horror in it, that's no surprise. So many of the old fairy tales are terrifying - witches eating children, parents dying. Gaiman's fairy tale is set in the traditional mode.

The unnamed narrator is a man who returns to his childhood home in Sussex, this time for a funeral. And, when he's feeling a little lost, he wanders down the lane near his home, looking for the Hempstocks, the three women who lived there. Lettie Hempstock, his childhood friend, once convinced him the pond there was the ocean. It was part of a larger horror story.

The narrator's family, once wealthy, was forced to take in boarders. When one of those boarders committed suicide at the bottom of the lane, unexpected horrors were released. After seeing the body, the seven-year-old boy was picked up by eleven-year-old Lettie, and taken to her house, where the food was wonderful, and the boy, always fearful and a loner, finally felt safe. And, the Hempstocks would fight to keep him safe as dangers threatened him and the world.

To reveal more would be to spoil Gaiman's story. It's the story of a young boy, scared of the world. Did the events of his childhood really happen, or are they part of his imagination?  Instead of discussing more of the story, I'll take about the narrator as reader. And any reader who was a loner, or lonely at times, will fall for the young narrator. He was a boy who said, "I was not afraid of anything when I read my book."  There's a reason Gaiman's story feels like a timeless myth. "I liked myths. They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories. They were better than that. They just were."

Then, there's the summary of life for every reader. "I went away into my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible." And Gaiman takes his narrator into a world that is too hard, too hard to accept and believe. Is is real or imaginary? Is it a myth? It's all about The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Neil Gaiman's website is

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. William Morrow. 2013. ISBN 9780062255655 (hardcover), 181p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


SandyG265 said...

I'm waiting for this to come from Amazon.

Susan Elizabeth said...

I've only read a handful of Gaiman books, but was delightfully pleased each time. Definitely looking forward to this one.

Karen C said...

This is a wonderful review, Lesa, and definitely makes me want to read the book.

Lesa said...

It's a little different, so I hope you enjoy it!

Urdu Shayari said...

Another great book from Neil Gaiman. For a moment I thought that it was a children's book, with the protagonist being a 7 year old boy. But Gaiman has a uncanny ability to mix fantasy and profoundness is such a way that a simplest idea can come to life in so many facets.

Lesa said...

You're right, Urdu. And, it's a book that hit many "Best of" lists, so people did appreciate it.

Greg Nemitz beef jerky king said...

Like a pleasant dream this book flows so quickly, you wish it wouldn't end. Written from both an adult and child's view simultaneously, Gaimen brings the confusion and joy of both to life.