The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel Paperback – June 3, 2014
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“Remarkable . . . wrenchingly, gorgeously elegiac. . . . [I]n The Ocean at the End of the Lane, [Gaiman] summons up childhood magic and adventure while acknowledging their irrevocable loss, and he stitches the elegiac contradictions together so tightly that you won’t see the seams.” -- Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“Gaiman has crafted an achingly beautiful memoir of an imagination and a spellbinding story that sets three women at the center of everything. . . .[I]t’s a meditation on memory and mortality, a creative reflection on how the defining moments of childhood can inhabit the worlds we imagine.” -- Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI)
“His prose is simple but poetic, his world strange but utterly believable―if he was South American we would call this magic realism rather than fantasy.” -- The Times (London) on THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
“Poignant and heartbreaking, eloquent and frightening, impeccably rendered, it’s a fable that reminds us how our lives are shaped by childhood experiences, what we gain from them and the price we pay.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] compelling tale for all ages . . . entirely absorbing and wholly moving.” -- New York Daily News on The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“[A] story concerning the bewildering gulf between the innocent and the authoritative, the powerless and the powerful, the child and the adult. . . . Ocean is a novel to approach without caution; the author is clearly operating at the height of his career.” -- The Atlantic Wire on The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“Ocean has that nearly invisible prose that keeps the focus firmly on the storytelling, and not on the writing. . . . This simple exterior hides something much more interesting; in the same way that what looks like a pond can really be an ocean.” -- io9
“This slim novel, gorgeously written, keeps its talons in you long after you’ve finished.” -- New York Post on The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“In Gaiman’s latest romp through otherworldly adventure, a young boy discovers a neighboring family’s supernatural secret. Soon his innocence is tested by ancient, magical forces, and he learns the power of true friendship. The result is a captivating read, equal parts sweet, sad, and spooky.” -- Parade on The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“’The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ is fun to read, filled with his trademarked blend of sinister whimsy. Gaiman’s writing is like dangerous candy―you’re certain there’s ground glass somewhere, but it just tastes so good!” -- Bookish (Houston Chronicle book blog)
“The impotence of childhood is often the first thing sentimental adults forget about it; Gaiman is able to resurrect, with brutal immediacy, the abject misery of being unable to control one’s own life.” -- Laura Miller, Salon
“[W]ry and freaky and finally sad. . . . This is how Gaiman works his charms. . . . He crafts his stories with one eye on the old world, on Irish folktales and Robin Hood and Camelot, and the other on particle physics and dark matter.” -- Chicago Tribune on The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“When I finally closed the last page of this slim volume it was with the realization that I’d just finished one of those uncommon perfect books that come along all too rarely in a reader’s life.” -- Charles DeLint, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction on The Ocean at the End of the Lane
From the Back Cover
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 where she once lived, 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.
A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, 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.
- ASIN : 0062255665
- Publisher : William Morrow (June 3, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 181 pages
- Item Weight : 5 ounces
- Dimensions : 0.7 x 5.1 x 7.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #12,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Beyond the stellar narration, the story was just so-so. I started reading it last year and quickly grew bored, so I stopped. Then I decided to give it another go when I found the audio version with Gaiman reading.
His voice and inflections give the story a little punch, but not enough to make up for all the elements I felt this novel lacked.
This is a book that started off as a short story and was expanded into a novel, and you can tell. For me, it still sits somewhere in-between a short story and a full blown novel, and I thought it could have used some more expanding and exploring of the characters, most of whom felt never fully realized.
Still, Gaiman's narration merits an extra star, and I did enjoy letting him read to me.
Gaiman's sense of description and and the way he puts words together really is interesting. I really found it interesting that the narrator--and his family--don't have names, just roles. As a writing device that could have been annoying and a poor decision, but here I actually think it served quite well for reasons I don't quite now how to put into words. I found the Hempstocks to be quite likable and fascinating and like-able. Having been quite bookish at most point in my childhood, I could relate to the un-named, male narrator (even as female reader).
Much like _Coraline_, this one has a couple of highly quotable passages. I could probably quote several whole sections. My favorite: "Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they just look like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world." Ah, how much easier growing up--and life in general--would be if this was universal knowledge... LOL When I was younger, it was so easy to think, "Adults just don't understand..." but as I've gotten older... I've come to realize yes, some adults do maybe forget what it's like to be young and going through life's various growing-pains... As I've gotten older, though, I've realized that most adults just feel pretty much like they always have and just have more accumulated "battle scars" from learning and living. I'm not sure if it's because I'm something of a big "kid-at-heart" reader, but I feel much the same I did decades (yikes!) ago and still even like many of the same things and have some of the ame dusty and rusty dreams that I had when I was little... LOL
_Coraline_ is still my favorite (and first) Gaiman book, but this one was time well-spent. I don't regret the investment--whether regarding money or time--at all. As I just finished reading the book a few minutes ago, I imagine this one will stick with me and my brain will continue to "chew" on the concepts for a while, much like _Coraline_ (a young adult novel) and _American Gods_ (another of the author's adult novels).
Oh and don't forget to #Save Lucifer
In this book, a man returns to a place he had lived when he was seven. Memories have beckoned him back to a pond he had known as “Lettie Hempstock’s ocean.” Lettie, who was eleven at the time, who may have been eleven for ages. Lettie, who had “waved at the house and the sky and the impossible full moon and the skeins and shawls and clusters of bright stars” like it was a big playroom full of toys. He remembers their exploits together, fantastical and terrifying, seeing the unseen, the “patterns and gates and paths beyond the real.” He remembers that, and he remembers everything: An invisible power that literally wormed its way into his life… Grotesque “hunger birds” ripping at the world and tearing it into nothing… Lettie standing between the shrieking scavengers and their prey (him)…. How a bucket of pond water transformed to become Lettie Hempstock’s ocean. He says it “flowed inside me and filled the entire universe from Egg to Rose…I knew what Egg was—where the universe began, to the sound of uncreated voices singing in the void—and I knew where Rose was—the peculiar crinkling of space on space into dimensions that fold like origami and blossom like strange orchids, and which would mark the last good time before the eventual end of everything and the next Big Bang, which would be, I knew now, nothing of the kind.”
To me, that’s knowing something you don’t understand, yet knowing that you know it. Thought-provoking to say the least.
Top reviews from other countries
I loved the film Coraline and the TV series of American Gods, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane really didn’t thrill me. I enjoy some fantasy, have been a fan of horror since I was a young girl, and absolutely love magical realism, but for some reason this story didn’t get inside me. Don’t get me wrong, it is well written, and clearly loved by many, but it felt like it was lacking something I can't quite put my finger on.
Maybe it’s unfortunate this was the first book I read by this author. Perhaps I would love his other books, or it’s just best I stick to enjoying his film and TV adaptations instead. I was also expecting an adult book, but this felt much more young adult to me, so that might explain some of my disappointment.
There were a couple of quotes I liked:
“Books were safer than other people anyway.”
“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.”
Oh, and this book did have my mouth watering at the memory of Blackjacks, which were one of my favourite childhood sweets. Yum!
I have Neverwhere and Stardust on my to be read pile, so perhaps I’ll give one of them a go at some point. Who knows, maybe I’ll eventually get round to reading my husband’s old copy of Good Omens one day too.
It captures the feel of growing up in the country really well, with common places made special and otherworldly simply by their location and a young imagination.
In some ways the story feels really rather sad, a melancholic vein running through, perhaps made more ‘real’ by the fact that the story is told retrospectively by the main protagonist.
A character that would appeal to many who grew up reading books, lost in adventures in their heads, he tells us that he found it hard to make friends as when younger. He seemed happy enough living with his mother, father and sister until a sequence of events brings him into contact with the Hempstock family, the youngest of them, a daughter Hettie, a few years older than himself.
They live in a farm at ‘the end of the lane’ with a pond in the middle of the yard, although Hettie calls it an ocean, a fanciful bit of imagination.
But as with stories of this type there is a lot more going on than initially meets the eye, and the new friends embark on an adventure to stop something dark seeping into the world. It is a threat that gradually escalates until only a sacrifice will appease.
The book draws on archetypes, most importantly in the form of the Hempstock family. There is a power in the form of three women, often shown as three witches although Gaiman makes them so much more in this instance. It is something that the late Terry Pratchett used and can be traced back through literature over the ages, indeed Gaiman himself made use of the trope in has Sandman series.
The Crone (rather unkind), the Mother and the Maiden – a role fulfilled by the Hempstock family. They seem somewhat archaic, but also seem to know a lot more about the world than anyone else. They are also filled with mystery and a gentle cunning. Hettie gives her age as eleven, but it is then established that the important question is how long has she been eleven?
For what is really quite a small book it is hidden with depth, from the characters themselves (especially the Hempstocks), touching on themes of loss, of greed, of suicide, of the feeling that there is more to the world than we could possibly believe, of courage and the willingness to sacrifice the most potent of things for friendship and more. Of horror that can lurk in the most innocuous of places and of the bravery it takes to find it.
It is also very unsettling, having one of the most disturbing scenes I have read in a long time as a father tries to drown his son.
Perhaps it is the mark of desperation falling upon a man finding his world being diminished by financial difficulties, but there is nothing more disturbing or terrifying than finding that one of the two people in the world that should be there for a child no matter what, is a bigger threat than anything else in the world.
It is a book that is both terrifying and wonderful, delivering a conclusion that is fitting and yet downbeat. A genuine telling and a charming read.
This book has a dreamlike quality to it, you are never quite sure what is real and what isn't. He manages to perfectly capture the essence of what it's like to be a child; the adventures, the insecurity, the not knowing, the hopelessness, the magic. The shadows on walls morphing into monsters in our minds, the dark of nighttime playing tricks on us - something we can all relate to and remember.
The writing is just beautiful, he manages to conjure up such vivid imagery with his creativity. The story is pretty short but quite sweet and simple. A middle aged man returns to his childhood home and is hit by memories of when he was 7 and his friendship with 11 year old (or infinitely old) Lettie, and what events were triggered after a man was found dead in the lane. You really need to read it to discover the magic for yourself, without knowing any details or where the story is taking you.
Apart from a few scenes this book could quite easily have been a kids book, well maybe an older child's book. I don't mean that in a bad way, but it could almost be a very dark and slightly more grown up Roald Dahl kind of book. Maybe because it's told mainly from a 7 year olds perspective, but i can imagine it would have both terrified and fascinated me as a child. As it is it makes a fantastic dark kind of fairy tale/bed time reading book for adults. The only problem is being able to put it down at a reasonable hour to attempt enough hours sleep before work!