Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

July 26, 2015 Review 38 ★★★★

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: William Morrow Books
Source: Borrowed
Pages: 181
Release Date: June 18th, 2013
Genres: Adult, Coming of Age, Fantasy, Fiction, General, Literary
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.

“Words save our lives, sometimes.”

How do you review, or even rate, a book like THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE?

First, I have to make a confession: I didn’t get this story at first. I was looking too hard at it; I wanted explanations and answers and a logical conclusion but THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE gives you none of those things and that is the beauty of it. Once you let that go (kind of like how the narrator lets his own adult mindset go in order to stroll down memory lane) you can truly enjoy the story.

The more I thought about this one upon finishing it, the greater it became. I realized how vivid the descriptions were and how everything came to life due to the writing. I realized just how incredibly meaningful the story really was, especially between the lines.

OCEAN reminded me a of THE NIGHT CIRCUS, not in plot but in the magic of the storytelling and writing and overall meaning. If you disliked these aspects in THE NIGHT CIRCUS, I might be a little wary to recommend this one to you.

There were some issues with the characters, I never totally connected to them or felt sympathetic to their cause. Most of the characters, including the narrator, felt one-dimensional and just kind of in the way. The Hempstock ladies were pretty cool though, if only for the mystery surrounding them.

I would tell anyone to at least give this one a chance, it’s less than two hundred pages yet tells more story than a book twice its size.

Rating Report
Overall: 3.8

38 Responses to “Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman”

  1. Marisabel

    I love this book for exactly that, the story telling. The characters seem plain because it was told in a fairy-tale kind of way. We are very used lately to “deep” first person narrations. Sometimes the simplicity of these stories are what we need to feel we read a dream. :) I like that effect of Gaiman’s books. ♥
    Marisabel recently posted…Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

    • Alise

      That is definitely true, I am very used to getting to know a character on a personal level so I missed that in this one.

  2. Naban

    I’ve been brushing aside this book for some reason. But I was surprised to have ended up loving The Night Circus so I’m a little more intrigued by this book now although I’m not about the characters being so cardboard. I do love a good storytelling though, decisionss. Great review Alise!
    Naban recently posted…Bookish Hogwash: Book Crimes | Spoilers in Blurbs

    • Alise

      If anything, it’s a really short read! ;) The magic and feel of the storytelling reminds me a lot of the Night Circus so if that interests you I say go for it. Thank you!

  3. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

    I still need to read both this one and The Night Circus but they’re both on my tbr/wishlist :) I think books like these make a nice break from the usual you know, where everything is so cut and dry. I like abstract stories too where the real magic is in the descriptions and the story-telling ♥ And I think the best kinds of books are the ones that get better and better the more you think about them! Wonderful review Alise, I’m glad that you enjoyed this one despite some issues with the characters.
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Review: Apollyon

    • Alise

      I completely agree! These require a bit more outside of the box thinking because they are outside of the box books. That’s exactly how I would describe both this and The Night Circus so I really hope you check them out sometime :) Thank you!

  4. Killian

    Even though I’ve read a bunch of Gaiman’s books for some reason he’s never quite clicked with me, his stories always seem to be lacking … something. That being said, I haven’t read his two most renowned works, the Sandman comics and American Gods. Despite my ambivalent feelings towards him in general I am pretty interested in this book. However, the fact that you said most of the characters felt one dimensional kind of concerns me because I definitely felt that with his other works. I do get what you mean about the book telling a story much bigger than its short length, despite my general misgivings about Gaiman, his stories are always packed with creativity. Thanks for the review, I think I’ll read this book sometime, and hopefully then I’ll be able to fully connect with Gaiman.
    Killian recently posted…Book Review #19: A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man by James Joyce

    • Alise

      This was my first novel by him and while I loved the magic of the storytelling, I’m definitely a bit worried if all his novels lack good characterization. I think so too, definitely a lot of imagination here.

  5. Connie

    I’ve actually yet to pick up a Neil Gaiman book haha, I’ve seen them around forever but I was never quite sure which one to start with. Glad to see that you enjoyed this though, I’ll make sure to read it ASAP ;)

    I love those short books that contain a powerful story despite their length — I mean, I like thick fantasy sagas as well, but there’s something great about being able to read a book in one sitting that still leaves your head spinning. Great review (:
    Connie recently posted…Movie Review: Paper Towns

    • Alise

      This was my first! I’ve also heard so many things about him so I’m glad I finally read (and enjoyed) one of his works. Yeah, I think this is a good one to start with!

      So true! It’s really something. Thank you :)

  6. Kelly

    Ooh, the premise reminds me a little of A Sudden Light by Garth Stein, which was a pretty good read, but more so targeted at YA. I love quick reads, especially ones that really pack a punch. I think given it’s so short though, the characters sounded as though they were sacrificed and underdeveloped. Even an extra 50 pages probably would have allowed readers to find that emotional attachment. I love Neil Gaiman so really looking forward to grabbing a copy. Wonderful review Alise, really enjoyed it <3
    Kelly recently posted…The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

    • Alise

      I haven’t heard of A Sudden Light but I will have to check it out now! If I had to fit this into an age range, it would be really hard, I think it can appeal to a lot of different audiences. That’s probably true, I wished I could have gotten to know about at least the main character. Yay! Thank you! :D

    • Alise

      Yeah, it’s interesting because I prefer character driven books but this one didn’t bother me so much, I think because there was a lot of other stuff going on.

    • Alise

      I can get that! I have had issues with books along the same lines so it’s always a gamble with this kind of writing. Sure! :)

    • Alise

      I can understand that! I kind of picked this one up on a whim, I’m not sure if I would have ever read it otherwise but I’m glad I did!

  7. Christina @ Christina Writes

    I love how lyrical and atmospheric this book is. Usually I prefer books with a lot more plotting and ~twists~ and action to them, but there was something really magical and relaxing about this. My favorite Neil Gaiman book is definitely Neverwhere, but this one’s up there!
    Christina @ Christina Writes recently posted…Ten Beloved Book Nerds

    • Alise

      I completely agree. It lacked some things I usually prefer in novels as well but the way the story was told in this just worked really well. Good to know, I’ll have to check that one out!

    • Alise

      Atmospheric is how I would describe both books, so if you liked Night Circus I would suggest checking this one out for sure, although it is a bit different, of course. Thanks :)

  8. Ethan

    I agree that the more you think about this novel, the more you can appreciate it. If anything, my only complaint when I reviewed it is that I wish there was more story to it. Everything that exists within the pages seem ripe for exploring, but the author only gives us a hint of that world. Considering my desire to know more, I’d say the story is a great success!
    Ethan recently posted…Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

    • Alise

      I completely agree, there seems like so much more story to tell. I also wish the ending had delivered more of a conclusion in regards to what happened to the youngest Hempstock. For sure!

  9. Wattle

    I love this book, I’m so glad you enjoyed it :) I learned a long time ago that Gaiman’s work is something that has to be experienced, you can’t think too hard, you’ve just go to go with it and let it surprise you. He has a way with words and telling stories, that’s for sure.

    If you haven’t read it, Neverwhere is a wonderful book. And so is Stardust :)
    Wattle recently posted…Mini Book Reviews: Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and The Isadora Interviews by Katie Cross

    • Alise

      Thanks :D I’m glad you liked it to! This is my first novel by him but I already see that seems to be the case, which makes me want to check out his other novels for sure! Ooh, okay-good to know!

    • Alise

      Yay, I’m glad! It’s definitely worth checking out at least, it was a great introduction to Gaiman for me!

  10. Romi

    I did have a go at listening to this on audio and, despite the fact Neil Gaiman himself read it (authors reading their own work seems to be the best idea ever), I didn’t finish it. I truly love his work, but guess I haven’t really stepped into the adult side of it, apart from Stardust. Your review is lovely, though, and when I have a bit of audio-book time spare I think I’ll get it out and give it another try. I love the feel of magicality that seems to be present in all his work.
    Romi recently posted…The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath…

    • Alise

      Interesting! Now I’m pretty curious about the audio, I’ll have to see if I can find a sample. I wonder if the audio made the pacing seem a bit slow? I’ve heard great things about Stardust but have still yet to read it. Thanks :)

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