The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

ocean at the end of the lane coverA middle-aged man returns to his childhood home for a funeral. Though his old house has long been demolished, he can still visit the farm at the end of the lane with the duck pond in the back. When he visits, he begins to remember everything that happened in his childhood–including Lettie Hempstock and her mother and grandmother–and the magical and frightening events that occurred after his 7th birthday.

My review isn’t going to be particularly long, because I don’t want to give anything away, and the book is rather short so it’s easy to give things away. Go out and read it and you will see what I mean.

This was a fun book to read. It wasn’t that it was funny or light-hearted; it was actually rather dark and sometimes frightening. It was more that you never forget you are witnessing the story from the perspective of a seven-year-old boy. He is introduced to magic when he is still open-minded enough to believe the impossible, like the duck pond behind the farm is really an ocean. And Lettie Hempstock may look like an eleven year old girl, but she is much more than that. It is she who helps the young boy believe and keeps him safe in this new world. Lettie, her Mrs. Hempstock, and her grandmother Old Mrs. Hempstock and their farmhouse which always has a full moon on one side are mysterious and intriguing for a young boy, and that makes them mysterious and intriguing to the reader. You can tell by the way magic is being perceived that you wouldn’t believe it even if you saw it with your own eyes. A completely different world on the other side of the field, with kittens that you pull out of the ground like weeks? No way. But he’s  a little boy, so of course you believe him. Many reviews that I have browsed describe this book as childhood in just under 200 pages, and I think that’s perfect. Innocence. Fear. Courage. Willingness to believe. It has everything. I can’t wait to read it again and catch everything I missed the first time around.

I just love Neil Gaiman, and have read just about every book of his, some more than once. While I did not think this was the most exciting book he has ever written, I still liked it, and it definitely read like a Neil Gaiman book, which honestly matters more to me than what the actual book is about. I just love his writing style, and how reading his books always makes me love reading, which I think is something pretty special that not many authors achieve. It always makes me thinks, “How can Neil Gaiman know how I feel about reading so well?” For example, the young star of this story, a sever-year-old-boy, is contemplating stories, and thinks to himself:

I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.

Adult stories never made sense, and they were so slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets, Masonic, mythic secrets to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?

I am an adult, and I love reading about all those things. I hope that means I’m doing it right. I don’t intend to stop.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

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2 responses to “The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

  1. Emily Kathleen

    I completely agree with you about Gaiman! Sometimes it’s more about the way he writes things than what he’s actually writing about. Have you read his Calender of Tales short story collection from earlier this year? They’re really lovely: http://keepmoving.blackberry.com/desktop/en/us/ambassador/neil-gaiman.html

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