The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


Oceans exist where we want them to be.

Synopsis of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: 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.

My two cents

An unnamed man recalls his boyhood, one steeped in strange and unexplained happenings. As a young boy, he is shy and more interested in books. No one even bothered to show up at his birthday party! Until one day, our unnamed hero notices that their car isn't in the driveway and a disturbing event starts off an avalanche of even more strangeness. His only refuge is the farm at the end of the lane, where he befriends the old soul of a girl called Lettie Hempstock and the other two formidable Hempstock women.

Returning 40 years later, he comes to the realization of friendship and of sacrifice in boyhood, and of the meaning of living his life.

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I've been itching to read this since since I first heard about it, being such a huge Neil Gaiman fan. I was going to buy my own copy (because really, I need Neil Gaiman in my personal library) but I got the chance at a review copy with this tour! Talk about the stars aligning.

Now what can I say about a novel that in 178 pages that captures the magic, the fantasy, the horror and the profundity that is Neil Gaiman? He opens the novel with this telling Maurice Sendak quote:
I remember my own childhood vividly...I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them.
This sets the story up for a story of terrible, terrifying things happening during the childhood of our nameless boy. Told from the viewpoint of a boy, he never questioned the fantastical things happening to him although these were inexplicable in his mind ... and my mind.

The twists and turns of the storyline kept me guessing at every turn. The unpredictability is what I relished and with the turn of each page, I kept me wondering what was in store for the nameless boy.

A huge part of the intrigue were the formidable and quirky Hempstock women and how they seemed to have the answers and always, our nameless boy's protection and best interests at heart. And Lettie, dear Lettie, where would this all go without you? There are so many little touches that made me do doubletakes (or double reads?) with talking corpses, hunger birds (a twist on Angry Birds?), and the big question: so how does one get a cat the normal way?

While the plot kept me going, I also didn't want to rush this read. Gaiman has a beautiful way with words and since this is so short, he's made each word count.

Ambiance is everything when reading a book. With the melding of fantasy and the macabre, and the unsettling creepiness that Gaiman is such a master, this is novel to savour, to languish in, to soak up.

Its universal themes of childhood memories, family, friendship and sacrifice mark this novel with a timelessness that will surely charm more readers.

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SPOILERS:
For those who have read Gaiman's work, for me, this feels like Coraline for grown-ups. I couldn't help but recall the terrifying similarities between The Other Mother and housekeeper/nanny Ursula Monkton. And what is Neil Gaiman's fascination with the name Hempstock? Do you recall the witch Liza Hempstock in The Graveyard Book

This book left me with such an immense sadness. Talk about reinforcing a mid-life crisis.

Verdict: This is unmistakeably Neil Gaiman: a short trip of a lifetime with the macabre and the fantastical. With mesmerizing language, memorable characters, an unpredictable plot, and its unsettling creepiness, first time Gaiman readers will love their first taste. Gaiman fans, this is a must-read!

About Neil Gaiman

Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett); the Sandman series of graphic novels; the story collections Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things; and co-editor (with Al Sarrantonio) of the fiction anthology Stories. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy Awards, and the Newbery Medal. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Find out more about Neil at his website. Connect with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Check out the rest of the tour here
I received copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Reprint edition (June 3, 2014)
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8 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Always a pleasure to be part of TLC's awesome tours, Heather!

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  2. I thought that it felt a lot like Coraline as well. But I loved them both. I adore Neil Gaiman. :)

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  3. Great review of one of my all-time favourite books! I read this when it was first released and was absolutely blown away. I love Gaiman and I was anticipating a great read, but this story moved me emotionally in a way none of his other works have. The story certainly has Gaiman's stamp all over it, yet for me it felt very different from his other works. I've rarely been so transported by a story, I think.

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    1. Yup, "blown away" pretty much sums it up :)

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  4. The Hempstock in The Graveyard Book was one of the line of witches related to the Hempstocks in this book! Or so I've read. I adored this book, read it in a day, and I'll definitely re-read it.

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    1. Hey Andi, I've held off reading anything about the book because I didn't want to spoil my first read of it. I'm really curious why he's got this thing for the name Hempstock. I just found this article:
      http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/06/neil-gaiman-why-fiction-is-dangerous

      So apart from the Hempstock link in The Graveyard Book, there's also a Stardust connection!

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