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The Ocean at the End of the Lane Mass Market Paperback – November 26, 2019
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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)
From the Back Cover
UK National Book Awards 2013 "Book of the Year"
“Fantasy of the very best.” Wall Street Journal
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.
“[Gaiman’s] mind is a dark fathomless ocean, and every time I sink into it, this world fades, replaced by one far more terrible and beautiful in which I will happily drown.” New York Times Book Review
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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
Top international reviews
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.
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.
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!
If you like a quirky, bizarre story then you've come to the right place. You know those sort of stories that immerse you in a surreal fantasy world that could just possibly exist alongside an everyday real one? Whilst people's lives intertwine with it, oblivious to its existence? Then yes, this is DEFINATELY for you.
It's dreamlike and slightly nuts in places, but altogether highly original. Yet it's told in a clever, matter-of-fact way that it actually makes it strangely plausible. It's a fantasy-fairylike-tale with a whopping, great punch throughout.
I must mention that the intimidation of the young boy by a truly vile villain, together with the 'angry birds' scene later in the book are captured in a perfectly sinister manner, painting quite a graphic image in your mind.
And I'll admit, I got myself lost a couple of times with the changing story between the past (the young boy) and the present (the boy grown up), particularly toward the end, but a quick re-read of the chapter put me straight. That was my fault entirely and not the book - therefore, I would recommend giving it your 100% attention to fully appreciate it, it would be a crime not to.
This is the first book I've read by Neil Gaiman and it's left me wanting to read more. 4.5 stars out of 5.
Most of us know from experience growing up and attempting to deal with things we do not understand or can’t explain is tough. I am guilty as a child of exaggerating stories and demonising people we believe we should hate. I believe Geiman captures this in his dark, enchanting way and he took me on a journey back to my childhood and to the feelings of being so scared, confused and excited by everything that is adult and unknown.
I have bought this book for a second time now and I continue to re-read and to gift to my friends to share the magic. I believe there is nothing better than having someone close to you, enjoy the same book but interpret and enjoy it in their own way. Everyone who has read this story with my recommendation has enjoyed it just as much, if not more than me. Please, although I am just a person who’s review you chose to read, I hope you are intrigued enough to buy, enjoy and share.
I first stumbled on this when I heard the final section on Radio 4 Book at Bedtime a few years ago. I made a note to buy it but lost the notebook then forgot about it until clever Amazon suggested it as something I may like. They weren't wrong.
I loved this story. It was so well written I could smell the grass in the fields and hear the rain falling.
I want to learn more about the Hempstocks and what else the ocean can do, I want to know how our narrator fairs later in life and if he or his children return to the farm and meet the maiden, the mother, and the crone.
Although told from the perspective of the narrator as a child I did not not find this jarring, only poignant in light of what we learn later.
It describes an adventure experienced by a young boy as narrated by his adult self. Outwardly, his seems like an idealised childhood; sunshine, bright flowers, toys, fields, and pets. Furthermore, a shed is a hideout, a pond is an ocean and your sister, your parents and your new nanny may be monsters and not to be trusted. You know, typical childhood stuff: when safety from the darkness can only be found with the strange women who live at the end of the lane. Normal.
The voice of the narrator is straightforward and simple, as is the story itself; there are goodies and baddies and I enjoyed this book in a guilty pleasure kind of way, given its mixture of whimsy and sentiment.
I’ve read a few other Neil Gaiman books over the years and I enjoyed them all, but never enough to go out and buy another one straight away. But the Ocean at the End of the Lane kept my attention all the way through and I’d certainly recommend it as an easy, enjoyable read.
And all of it is somehow seamlessly woven into a surface story of a boy, a girl and the pond at her farm - the ocean from the title. I have to say I was definitely impressed at how well Gaiman managed to portray the boy as someone of the required age, and yet get the messages that accompany the book underneath the surface through, too.
Probably not the conventional, witty Gaiman but a more serious, contemplative one but definitely a book (started out as a short story) worth reading. I guess it will get many readers into an introspective mode, and even if it does not, the read itself is pleasant enough so as to give it a try.
The story begins with our unnamed narrator leaving a funeral wake to take a drive in the country. Seemingly aimless, buried memories direct him to the place where he grew up as a small boy in the 1960s. The family home is long gone, but the lane remains and he recalls the farm at its end. Finding himself at the farm and sitting by its duck-pond, his memories of the summer of his seventh year are woken and that story begins in earnest.
George is a lonely boy. He lives in an old house set back on a quiet lane somewhere in the Sussex countryside. He loses himself in books in lieu of adventures with friends he doesn’t have. He loves myths and legends and like most seven year old boys, he delights in in exploring the natural world. One day a tragedy befalls the South African lodger who is staying at George’s family home. Discovered dead on the back seat of the family car, the lodger’s death sets in motion a strange adventure that no adult would believe — but that every seven year old would know is truest experience they will ever have.
The lodger’s death leads George to Lettie Hempstock, an eleven year-old girl who lives with her mother and grandmother on nearby Hempstock farm. From the start we understand that this family is more than they appear: Lettie explains to George that their duck-pond is an ocean and it was brought with them when they travelled from the Old Country. Friendship with Lettie is exciting: she sees and knows things that no normal eleven year old girl should, and George accepts it without question.
But their friendship comes at a cost: The lodger’s death has awoken a mysterious creature; a creature that may fulfil any man’s wish but at a cost far greater than he could afford. Gaiman weaves the fantastic with the every-day as he builds a compelling and mesmerising world that sits outside our common human experience. George is caught at the centre of a tale of ancient terrors, uncommon magic and forces that have existed beyond the beginning of time.
To reveal too much more of Gaiman’s dark tale would be to spoil it. Evoking the voice of Alan Garner, and animating the landscape with dark terrors, Gaiman weaves a new fairy-tale that feels familiar yet is fresh, beguiling and menacing in equal measure. It took me right back to the first time I read Weirdstone and left me similarly transfixed.
The writing itself is beautiful. The voice given to young George is pitch perfect. Gaiman’s ability to recall the feelings and experiences of this lonely boy is so accurate that it’s heartbreaking. Every experience is keenly felt, and I related to so closely to George that I was transported back to my own childhood with its own traumas and tears.
This is a timeless story of childhood dreams and nightmares. It asks questions about memory and loss and whether our recollection of our formative experiences can ever be trusted as the truth. But beyond these questions, the story gives us hope: hope that we can be worthy of the friendships we make and of the life that is given to us.
I know I will re-read this tale many times. It will always make me weep because it holds the truth of childhood at its heart and respects it. It’s a story that knows we mustn’t ever forget what it’s like to be seven years old, for fear that we’ll forget how to live as an adult. While there is darkness and tragedy in Gaiman’s tale, there is ultimately hope — a hope that we be kinder, gentler adults and remember our childhood dreams so that our own children might have their own dreams too.
In The Ocean at the End of the Lane there’s no pretence of the possibility that at some point and ordinary person would understand what was really going on. It acknowledges that grown ups can’t really live their lives believing in fairy tales but suggests that that doesn’t mean that those fairy tales can’t still be true.
I found it intriguing, tense and heartbreaking, although not in the bleak, endless, inevitable heartbreaking sense that a lot of my favourite novels manage. Perhaps bitter-sweet is a better word to describe it. It’s definitely made me want to read more Gaiman. It’s also made me want to give a copy to all my friends so I can nag them to read it and then we can talk about it without the risk of spoilers.