Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Title:   The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

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.

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 Review:

Why is it that I am generally not a fantasy-genre fan, and yet I continue to love Neil Gaiman?  DISCUSS.

I guess I should first clarify that this novel is not easily placed into one genre.  Fantasy seems closest to the mark, but perhaps magical realism?  A fable?  A tad bit of horror?  So maybe one reason that I enjoyed this book is because it flies in the face of the very IDEA of genres.  It's got a bit of everything, and Gaiman manages to meld it all together masterfully.

I love how this book begins as a middle-aged man's reminiscence about his childhood, and then creeps, almost imperceptibly, into a story that is rather disturbing and at times, horrific.  I felt similarly about Coraline and Neverwhere .  I hate to make broad generalizations about Neil Gaiman's work when I've only read 3 novels so far, but based on that limited repertoire, I'd say he has a knack for probing the (potentially frightening) forces that make our world tick.  While you're innocently working at your job, or sitting in Starbucks, or reading a book on your couch...who (or what) is out there, allowing our world to exist?  Are they good, or evil?  Do they even LIKE us?  The Ocean at the End of the Lane will leave you wondering about that.  A lot.

I was also drawn to the way this book often sets up children vs adults scenarios, and the power that the child characters wield (even when they don't think that they do).  This idea of there being strength in the innocence of childhood (especially in the face of evil) has always been an interesting theme for me, and is seen quite a lot in Stephen King's work too.  In the case of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the young main character's POV also lends a more unfiltered view to the story than anything an old, "jaded" adult could have provided, which makes the end result that much more powerful.

Notice how I didn't delve into many plot specifics here?  I don't want to spoil anything for you.  But trust me--the broader points (like the way the tone so gradually shifts, and the deeper meaning behind the plot action) are what will stick with you anyway.  Yes, the story is great, but it's the story-behind-the-story that's going to leave this one rolling around in your brain for a while.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Neil Gaiman on his websiteTwitter, and Facebook.


  1. I’m on this tour, too, and really liked the book. I didn’t realize it was “fantasy” and can’t wait to read another Gaiman novel, even though (like you) it’s not my normal genre.

    1. There really is something magnetic about his work. I can't put my finger on it. Great characters, careful attention to detail, a bit humorous...all that thrown in with the fantasy aspects makes me like it more than your average "fantasy" novel, I suppose.

  2. Neil Gaiman is magical. He might be from another plane of existence.

    1. AGREED. Perhaps that's why he writes so well about...other planes of existence?

  3. Because Neil Gaiman rocks of course :) This sounds so good! I'd love to read more Neil Gaiman and your description of the way the supernatural creeps into this one seems like it could be a lot of fun.

    1. I need to read more of his stuff too. Always on my TBR!

  4. I loved this book. I'm already wanting to re-read it and I just read it close to this time last year. Happy dance!

    1. It's so short, it will be easy to re-read, which I like!

  5. I may want to include this book in my England reading this year. Neverwhere is already on the list.

    Joy's Book Blog

    1. Oh yes, this is a fun look at rural England...Neverwhere is great for London.

  6. I find Gaiman fascinating as well!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


Imagination Designs