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The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: Neil Gaiman's intent was simple: to write a short story. What he ended up with instead was The Ocean at the of the Lane--his first adult novel since Anansi Boys came out in 2005, and a narrative so thoughtful and thrilling that it's as difficult to stop reading as it was for Gaiman to stop writing. Forty years ago, our narrator, who was then a seven-year-old boy, unwittingly discovered a neighboring family’s supernatural secret. What happens next is an imaginative romp through otherwordly adventure that could only come from Gaiman's magical mind. Childhood innocence is tested and transcended as we see what getting between ancient, mystic forces can cost, as well as what can be gained from the power of true friendship. The result is a captivating tale that is equal parts sweet, sad, and spooky. --Robin A. Rothman--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* In Gaiman’s first novel for adults since Anansi Boys (2005), the never-named fiftyish narrator is back in his childhood homeland, rural Sussex, England, where he’s just delivered the eulogy at a funeral. With “an hour or so to kill” afterward, he drives about—aimlessly, he thinks—until he’s at the crucible of his consciousness: a farmhouse with a duck pond. There, when he was seven, lived the Hempstocks, a crone, a housewife, and an 11-year-old girl, who said they were grandmother, mother, and daughter. Now, he finds the crone and, eventually, the housewife—the same ones, unchanged—while the girl is still gone, just as she was at the end of the childhood adventure he recalls in a reverie that lasts all afternoon. He remembers how he became the vector for a malign force attempting to invade and waste our world. The three Hempstocks are guardians, from time almost immemorial, situated to block such forces and, should that fail, fight them. Gaiman mines mythological typology—the three-fold goddess, the water of life (the pond, actually an ocean)—and his own childhood milieu to build the cosmology and the theater of a story he tells more gracefully than any he’s told since Stardust (1999). And don’t worry about that “for adults” designation: it’s a matter of tone. This lovely yarn is good for anyone who can read it. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: That this is the popular author’s first book for adults in eight years pretty much sums up why this will be in demand. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
Finally, I caved and bought a copy for completion's sake. This was a very good decision.
It's slow in the beginning, but the stage-setting really is worth it. The wild ride and beautiful imagery, delivered in the matter-of-fact prose, really makes for a lovely read. It's also scary as h---, probably the scariest thing he's ever written. I was really impressed with the way he mixed folklore and a touch of science, too. The characters are well-realised and sympathetic. It really feels like it belongs in the Neverwhere/American Gods universe, but this story is even more close and personal, so that takes it to the next level.
Negatives? Well, the opening is a bit slow, and I can't say it's an emotionally easy read. I did tear up a bit at the end, too, and it's a classic bittersweet Gaiman ending.
Over all, though, it was a gorgeous book, a perfect adult fairytale, and the pacing in 3/4ths of it is wonderful. I'm very sad that Studio Ghibli's Miyuzaki has retired, because he would be the perfect animator to take this tale on. Even if you're not a Gaiman fan, this is a great introduction, and I have to recommend it wholeheartedly.
The fantasy aspect of this story is thrilling because I found myself second guessing what/who is real, and what is all in his head. But the best part about this novel, is the fact that what is real and what isn't real isn't the main point-the point is what we learn from it and what we get out of it.
I also love how Neil Gainman explores the wonders of childhood innocence-of when a child knows something is right/wrong even if he/she cannot explain how he/she knows, of how a child can sense evil/goodness before adults can, and of how strong hope is embedded in each child.
It's a great notion that as children, we want nothing more than to grow up, but once we are grown, we are pulled by some invisible yearning to fall right back into the world we so desperately wanted to leave.
I just can't get over how wonderful this story is, despite the fact that at times it did get a bit weird for me. But I know, I just know, that once I re-read it, I will understand it better and I will love it just as much, if not more.