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860 of 891 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adult fairy tales don't get much better than this
Right up front I should admit, I'd never heard of Neil Gaiman before I read an enthusiastic newspaper review about this book and decided to preorder it a few days ago. Last night, it was wirelessly delivered to my Kindle and this morning, I picked it up and started reading. Almost instantly, I was so absorbed and lost in the storytelling experience that I didn't do...
Published 20 months ago by B. Case

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179 of 212 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly let down
While Neil Gaiman's storytelling is always very beautifully done, I was a mildly disappointed with Ocean at the End of the Lane. I read in the epilogue that the book was originally poised to be a short story--and that shows. It felt exactly like I read a short story. There was very little character development, and I was left wanting more from the story.

It...
Published 20 months ago by Rachel R


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860 of 891 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adult fairy tales don't get much better than this, June 18, 2013
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Right up front I should admit, I'd never heard of Neil Gaiman before I read an enthusiastic newspaper review about this book and decided to preorder it a few days ago. Last night, it was wirelessly delivered to my Kindle and this morning, I picked it up and started reading. Almost instantly, I was so absorbed and lost in the storytelling experience that I didn't do anything else until I finished it a few hours later.

It's a short book; it's enchanting; it's very well written...definitely top-quality fantasy literature. I'm not a fan of fantasy literature, but this book swept me away into such a delightful and fascinating series of incredible adventures--or should I say misadventures--that I could not pull myself away. The author is correct to warn that this is not a fable for children...the reality is far too stark and dark, and there are definitely some adult themes.

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is a tale about a lonely bookish seven-year old whose life takes a terrifying turn into a dark and creepy reality. The child is never named, but in recent interviews, the author admits that this child is very much like he was at that age. The child lives in the lovely English countryside of Sussex--the same environment where the author grew up. And like Gaiman, the child is wise, responsible, and moral beyond his years. The parents are blithely confident that nothing bad could happen to their brilliant bookish son in such a bucolic setting. But of course, bad things can, and do happen, especially to the pure and innocent...

The parents have no idea that the Hempstocks--an eleven-year-old girl, her mother, and grandmother--who live by a pond at the end of the lane, are really a group of immortals who play at being human. Our seven-year-old child makes friends with the girl, Lettie Hempstock, and she introduces him to the pond, which is really an ocean. Eventually, our narrator and Lettie take a trip into a higher plain of reality that is entered somehow through the property owned by the Hempstocks, and so begins a series of remarkable misadventures with unforeseen consequences.

This novel is a heroic tale about the age-old battle between childhood innocence and mythic forces. The book will charm you, fill you with awe, make you feel on edge, surprise you, and make you want to keep on reading no mater what important obligations you might have waiting for you to accomplish.

Since finishing the book this afternoon, I was so curious about this fine writer that I started doing research into his life, philosophy, and writing. It seems that in prepublication interviews, Gaiman says that he's prouder of this particular work than anything else he's ever written...and, as I learned today, this is an author who has had an insanely prolific career spanning blockbuster successes across a large number of different creative media. He says he's put an enormous amount of effort into writing and rewriting this book in order to get the tone, words, and dramatic focus just right. A number of critics have already said they consider this work to be as close to sterling literary fiction as Gaiman is ever likely to get.

Indeed, I was very impressed. For me, this work is, without doubt, first-rate fantasy and escapist fiction...and very fine literature, as well. It delivers a highly imaginative, fabulous and fascinating fable that envelops, and attempts to explain, everything in the space-time continuum. Yes, it's that ambitious! It had me hooked from the first to the last page. Simply put: it is an incredible gem of a novel.
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198 of 220 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enchanting Story of Sacrifice and Growing Up, June 18, 2013
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Over the course of his career, author Neil Gaiman has delighted readers with his storytelling abilities. His almost childlike sensibilities have allowed him to reach audiences through various mediums, spanning from comic books to more traditional children and adult literature. With his latest adult novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, he explores a dark story with enough whimsy and emotion to attract readers of all tastes.

The novel begins with a forty something year old man returning to the small English town where he grew up. His old home has long been demolished, but he is drawn instead to a dilapidated farmhouse at the end of the lane. When he arrives there, he begins to reflect on his childhood and the dark events that occurred at the place.

He was only seven years old when it began. A quiet boy, more at home with his nose in a book than playing with other children, he was an outcast within his own family. We learn that the family is struggling with money. They decide to move him from his own room to bunk with his sister, leaving an empty bed to rent out. With the arrival of the renter, a mysterious opal miner, dark events begin to occur.

The boy meets the three generations of Hempstock women who run the farm at the end of the lane. Lettie Hempstock, who claims to have been eleven years old for a very long time, immediately entrances the boy with her enchanting way with words and conviction that the pond that rests at the very end of the lane is actually an ocean. She agrees to allow him to tag along as she takes a trip to an odd place that lies somewhere between this world and the next. Upon their return from the strange place, an evil is released. Following the untimely death of the mysterious opal miner, this evil takes the form of a menacing nanny, who takes up residence at the boy's home. With the help of the Hempstock women, the boy must vanquish the evil while learning the true meaning of sacrifice.

Neil Gaiman is known for his delightfully dark, whimsical fairytales. This novel is no exception. At its heart, this is a coming of age story that beautifully depicts the fun, confusion, magic, and sacrifice of growing up. Gaiman makes these sometimes difficult realities more accessible through his imaginative characters, situations, and pacing. The novel is completely engrossing, begging to be read in a single sitting. With an ending that is both poignant and satisfying, readers of all ages should definitely follow Gaiman to the end of the lane.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book; it is all of gloomy, heartbreaking, and magical; in the end, it is completely hope-filled, July 6, 2014
This review is from: The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel (Paperback)
Neil Gaiman is one of those modern authors I automatically categorize as classic. I've loved his previous novels and all his little projects in between, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane solidifies his position as one of my all-time favorite writers.

Through a drowsy, overwhelming narrative, we follow the sudden, startling recollection of one man's past—one that is all of magical, terrible, and sobering. While visiting the little English country lane of his childhood, our unnamed protagonist reunites with a familiar face who prompts him to think of an old friend he hasn't thought about in years. Upon remembering one thing, he remembers everything.

Vividly Proust-like and told in calm, focused prose, this novel submerges readers into the sweet, wise, sometimes wondrous, and sometimes frightening mementos of a forgotten childhood, while expertly capturing the one-track mind of a seven-year-old boy. His memories immerse us into a world that is all of strange, fantastical, but still utterly believable—as well as introduce us to an intriguing character, Lettie Hempstock, who teaches us the most valuable lesson about being a friend.

The fantasy setting of the child's experiences is out of this world—literally. I don't know how Gaiman comes up with the most bizarre concepts and the most sinister of villains while still managing to sound so real, but he does it beautifully. The story definitely has dark undertones, but it is masked by the naïve tranquility of an ignorantly blissful child. Not only is this aspect of magical realism so smoothly incorporated, but the injustices and powerlessness of childhood are also exquisitely portrayed. Gaiman reminds us of what it is like to be young again—and through this reliving, we are forced to consider the underestimated wisdom of children, and the overlooked foolishness of adults.

Stylistically, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is quite easy and straightforward; at less than 200 pages, it is a slim volume—but it has a huge impact. In the veins of Marcel Proust and Georges Perec, Neil Gaiman acknowledges the sheer power or memory, imagination, and wonder, while providing a haunting reflection of what it means to remember, and what it means to forget.

Pros: Stunningly perceptive // Light but meaningful writing style // Poetic // Sinister and dark at times, yet overall enlivening // Fantastical while still startlingly realistic // Poignant observations on memory, storytelling, and youth // If you're a Neil Gaiman fan already, this may become your newest favorite of his // Simply put: a good story

Cons: Slow-moving at times

Verdict: Imaginative, chilling, and mournful to a past life, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a powerful novel about the importance of stories, seen through the impressionable, vulnerable eyes of a nameless child. The book juxtaposes supernatural occurrences in a contemporary setting to create the ultimate urban fantasy world, with splashes of nostalgia added in between that really disorient the plot's flow. Told in Neil Gaiman's trademark voice—so dark, but so eloquent—that made Stardust a huge hit, this #1 New York Times Bestseller is completely deserving of its widespread praise. I loved this book; it is all of gloomy, heartbreaking, and magical; in the end, it is completely hope-filled.

Rating: 9 out of 10 hearts (5 stars): Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf.

Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!).
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179 of 212 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly let down, June 25, 2013
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While Neil Gaiman's storytelling is always very beautifully done, I was a mildly disappointed with Ocean at the End of the Lane. I read in the epilogue that the book was originally poised to be a short story--and that shows. It felt exactly like I read a short story. There was very little character development, and I was left wanting more from the story.

It also didn't feel very adult to me. There are a few scenes thrown in that indeed make it adult, but it didn't read that way. Seemed like the adult scenes were somewhat of an afterthought so it could be sold as adult fiction.

If you are expecting one of the epic worlds and tales that Gaiman usually creates, it's not in this book. While I still think it was beautifully written and enjoyed it, I was left a bit disappointed.

I hope this is helpful!
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195 of 243 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but feels a little worn out, June 24, 2013
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I will begin this review by admitting that I am a long time fan of fiction written by Gaiman. I started out with American Gods and went back and forth through his bibliography - novels, teleplays and graphic novels - all the stuff.

When I started out reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane I had no idea if it was a mythical story or a regular novel about childhood. I had heard it was an adult novel but still...

I will be upfront about it - the book is good. It entertains you, binds you and even makes you wonder for some time. However, even as I read it, I felt that I had read it all before. In American Gods, in Sandman, in Anansi boys... the idea that mythical creatures exist in the same world as us today, and talk the same tongue as us, and are nonchalant about it - it has been done before and Gaiman has done it better.
The novelty of that concept, of Gods talking to men and women of our day in our lingo, and admitting to stuff like "That stuff is old, it was here before the Sun or the Moon came up in the sky" even as they talk about milking the cows, wears off after a while. Then you think about what the story is, and you find out it - its not that meaty after all. Worse, the author seems to be reveling in the knowledge of the fact that only he knows what is really going on - who the Lempstocks are, who the "fleas" are, and the varmints as well. Hints are dropped and clues left behind, but these - unlike in American Gods - are never resolved. There is perhaps a reason for that. Maybe the protagonist of the novel is too young to be bothered about knowing who are the deities he is interacting with? But do you - as a reader - not care too? The answer to that question would determine how happy/unhappy you would be with this novel, which for all its beauty and moments of joy and wonder - is incomplete.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent short story, June 30, 2013
By 
baylor (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
Seeing how many people have given this stellar reviews, and given that i waited in line an hour to buy it opening day, i'm feeling insecure in saying this but this just isn't a a "novel" worth 10-20 dollars.

Prologue - An old man visits his home town for a funeral. His house is gone but he sees the old farm nearby is still there.
Chapter 1 - Flashback to being 7. Nothing happens.
Chapter 2 - Still 7. Still nothing happens.
Chapter 3 - Not much happens, but beginning to suspect something might.
Chapers 4-25 - They meet a magic woman. The woman causes trouble. They send her away.
Epilogue - Old man again

He writes that this started as a short story but grew. It obviously did not grow much. It's 175 pages, which is half or a third of the size of normal novels these days, and it is roughly as complex as a short story. There's no background or character development as in The Graveyard Book. There are no twists or turns as in American Gods. There's no life lesson like the one you might infer from Anansi Boys. As in so many Gaiman stories, there are three women of different ages and they have Gaimanesque powers but what they don't have is a back story of any kind, nor do they appear to be related to the traditional three. There is no conspiracy of Jacks or substories about cars on icy lakes, it really is just a story of a 7 year old who takes a single, short walk in the woods and then has to deal with a well-meaning but odd woman. In a way, it's like Coraline, only with less depth and no supporting characters such as the cat. And Coraline was clearly advertised as a short story and priced accordingly.

This is not a bad book. It's not nearly as complex, atmospheric or fleshed out as the short story where Shadow fights a monster in Scotland but it's better than the disaster that was 1602 and that awful teen novel Interworld. If he had thrown out the first few and last few chapters (the old man part seemed completely irrelevant), made an attempt at explaining the Hempstocks and included it in a collection of other short stories, it would have been fine. Alternately, if he had taken the time to have more than the 5 characters (the 7 year old, the 3 ladies and the magic woman), added one or two subplots (as he did in every other novel he's written), explained the rules for this universe (beyond "you kids get off my lawn", which appears to be the Hempstock ladies primary power), it could have been a good novel. But as it is, its a remarkably simple story for Neil stretched out to just enough pages to justify selling on its own.

i read a review of this book written by Neil's wife talking about how personal this story was, how it was motivated by their separation and the problems they had. So maybe it wasn't intended to be a complex, interesting, thought-provoking story. But if there was something personal here, i'll be honest, i didn't get it. Even the theme i was told, "you can't go back again", seems shallow and silly here (yes, he can't go home, it was torn down, which is fine because he didn't like his home and has no desire to go back).

i really wanted to like this book but when it comes to Neil's novels, his marvelous, unblemished record of great novels, i think i'm going to forget that he wrote this one.
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107 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Kittens one day, old cats the next.", June 18, 2013
By 
I'm not going to tell you much about the plot of Neil Gaiman's latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It's a slender book, under 200 pages, and his first novel for adults in eight years. Here, however, is a brief exchange that happens early in the tale:

*****
She shrugged. "Once you've been around for a bit, you get to know stuff."
I kicked a stone. "By `a bit' do you mean `a really long time'?"
She nodded.
"How old are you really?" I asked.
"Eleven."
I thought for a bit. Then I asked, "How long have you been eleven for?"
She smiled at me.
*****

That exchange occurs between the unnamed seven-year-old narrator and his new friend, Lettie Hempstock. However, we first meet this narrator about 40 years later in the novel's prologue. He's returned to the rural English village of his youth to attend a funeral. After the service, he takes a drive and finds himself strolling down not only the lane of his childhood home, but down memory lane as well. And what this visit unearths are some long-suppressed memories of extraordinary events.

Mr. Gaiman has been candid in admitting that the bookish protagonist of the tale is a stand-in for his younger self, and that the novel has autobiographical elements--though I think it will be clear that they are merely a jumping off point for the fantastic. And fantastic it is! In all senses of the word.

I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane on Father's Day, which somehow felt appropriate. And I read it travel-woozy and jet-lagged. Also good, I think. I was halfway into another world already. What I can tell you is this: I read the book in one sitting. I did not eat, drink, or take a bathroom break. I did not move. It's possible I did not breathe. But I did get chills. The book opens with what I gather was a true incident from the author's childhood, a tragedy that is the catalyst for all that is the come. And as the tale grew darker and darker, I began to truly fear for these characters Gaiman had brought to life and made me care about.

The story is a heady combination of fantasy, horror, nostalgia, and coming-of-age tale. Like all of Mr. Gaiman's work, there is much subtext to be mined. One could discuss the fascinating Hempstock women at length--their mythic origins, the various legends and cultures from which they may have derived, and their relationship to other Hempstocks in the author's catalog. Or, you could concentrate on how the author examines adulthood from a child's perspective and childhood from an adult's perspective. Or, you could identify the influences of numerous other writers on this work, and explore the importance of literature in our lives and the power of story within the tale. The narrator asks, "Why didn't adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?" (Some of us do, Neil, some of us do.) What I'm saying is, that while The Ocean at the End of the Lane may be short on page count, it's quite long on substance.

The writing is evocative, eerie, and very, very good. Dialogue and dialect bring characters' voices to life. ("Right, my proud beauties," said Ginnie Hempstock, loudly.) The tale moves quickly. At that length, there is nothing superfluous. More than anything, Mr. Gaiman is a masterful story-teller. When he tells you, in the guise of a pre-adolescent old soul, that a duck pond is an ocean, well, you WILL believe it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not My Thing, July 17, 2013
By 
I thought this was going to be more of a young boy's loss-of-innocence story but it was more fairy-tale/magic/horror/fantasy than I care for. Not my cup of tea - but others have clearly loved it.
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, July 11, 2013
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I had just finished Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane earlier today as I got off the train coming home from work. A couple minutes later I passed by the Music Box Theater and saw that Neil Gaiman was doing a reading a book signing, right there at that very moment. It was sold out so I couldn’t go in, but it’s just as well, as my reaction when I finished was, “that’s it?!” For his first general novel in over eight years since Anansi Boys (2008), I definitely expected more. At 192 pages, it’s slight even next to The Graveyard Book at 320 pages, which was marketed for children. But my disappointment wasn’t that I wished it didn’t end so soon. It’s that I wanted it to end even sooner.

One of the things I love about Gaiman’s books is his skill at building fascinating worlds. They may be dark and often terrifying, but they leave you thinking and even dreaming about them long after reading the books, particularly with Neverwhere (1996). While The Ocean does present a potentially interesting world, it falls short, mainly because it’s largely seen through the eyes of a seven year-old boy. Now if this were one of his fantastical fairy tales or children’s books, it might be appropriate. But instead it’s a 50+ year-old man remembering surreal events that happened over the course of just a few days, and deals with some horrifying stuff, from child abuse and infidelity to nightmarish body horrors of monsters burrowing into his body, attempts to extract it and being subsequently terrorized. These feel like they ring true with my murky memories of my own old childhood nightmares. However, given that it’s a seven year-old boy, he is completely and utterly helpless, at the mercy of abusive or non-understanding adults, monsters, and dependent on the help of a trio of multi-generational, immortal women neighbors. So the main character really has no control over his surroundings or fate, and thus there is no sense of adventure, only a feeling of impotent horror of watching events unfold, just like a nightmare.

The most intriguing characters remain mostly mysterious and undeveloped. And there’s little reason to consider the boy at all interesting or exceptional, save for one act of bravery. I wish I could say it provides fascinating insights on the nature of memory and how it changes in order to protect your psyche from real horrors in childhood, but I really don’t think it’s all that profound. While I still enjoy Gaiman’s writing and ideas, the unpleasant parts of this one outweighed any redeeming qualities. Gaiman is reportedly working on a sequel to American Gods (2001). Here’s hoping he can revive his epic sense of both wonder and adventure.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging & Enchanting, June 27, 2013
I brought this book along on my family's beach vacation. When I found myself standing in the bathroom reading it after midnight, after everyone demanded lights out, I knew it was a winner! A 40-something man returns to his boyhood home in Sussex, England for a funeral. He cannot remember the last time he returned, but does not seem at all surprised to find himself at a pond at the end of the lane, the ocean of the title. There he remembers things both fantastic and frightening from the year he turned seven. The pond is on the Hempstock farm, and the Hempstock were not what they seemed then and are not now, but that summer the youngest Hempstock led him on an adventure that revealed how very fragile the world we perceive actually is. This is an enchanting, mesmerizing tale of the true courage of childhood and the fears adults bring forth from those years that can sometimes cripple and stunt our personal growth.
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman (Paperback - June 3, 2014)
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