Summary and book reviews of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2013, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2014, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Cindy Anderson

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About this Book

Book Summary

This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible all too real...

A brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman's first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Times bestseller Anansi Boys.

This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible all too real...

Excerpt
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

I remembered it before I turned the corner and saw it, in all its dilapidated red-brick glory: the Hempstocks' farmhouse.

It took me by surprise, although that was where the lane had always ended. I could have gone no further. I parked the car at the side of the farmyard. I had no plan. I wondered whether, after all these years, there was anyone still living there, or, more precisely, if the Hempstocks were still living there. It seemed unlikely, but then, from what little I remembered, they had been unlikely people.

The stench of cow muck struck me as I got out of the car, and I walked, gingerly, across the small yard to the front door. I looked for a doorbell, in vain, and then I knocked. The door had not been latched properly, and it swung gently open as I rapped it with my knuckles.

I had been here, hadn't I, a long time ago? I was sure I had. Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. It would be easy to think of the Hempstocks as the "triple goddess" (the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone) of popular mythology. In what ways do they conform to those roles? In what ways are they different?
  2. The narrator has returned to his hometown for a funeral (we never learn whose). Do you think that framing his childhood story with a funeral gives this story a pessimistic outlook, rather than an optimistic one?
  3. Because the narrator is male and most of the other characters are female, this story has the potential to become a stereotypical narrative where a male character saves the day. How does the story avoid that pitfall?
  4. The story juxtaposes the memories of childhood with the present of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The novel invites more than one read-through, and more than one possible interpretation, which makes it a great choice for reading groups and book clubs. Even someone who has never read Gaiman, or perhaps not appreciated his other works, should give Ocean a try. Gaiman fans may recognize some themes from his previous works, such as myth and magic, good versus evil, and childhood versus adulthood, but this book is different. It is as if the author has borrowed bits and pieces from his various works, added a few new ones and then re-formed them, jigsaw puzzle style, into a beautiful and resonant work of art that is much more than the sum of its parts.   (Reviewed by Cindy Anderson).

Full Review Members Only (1191 words).

Media Reviews

The New York Post

This slim novel, gorgeously written, keeps its talons in your long after you’ve finished

USA Today

[W]orthy of a sleepless night . . . a fairy tale for adults that explores both innocence lost and the enthusiasm for seeing what’s past one’s proverbial fence . . . Gaiman is a master of creating worlds just a step to the left of our own.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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.

The Atlantic Wire

[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

Salon

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.

The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Gaiman labels [his novel] ‘for all ages,’ which is exactly right. It has grief, fear and regret, as well as love and awe-adult emotions, but children feel them too…. [L]ike all Mr. Gaiman’s work, this is fantasy of the very best

Chicago Tribune

[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.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Gaiman (Anansi Boys) has crafted a fresh story of magic, humanity, loyalty, and memories "waiting at the edges of things," where lost innocence can still be restored as long as someone is willing to bear the cost.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Scott Smith's The Ruins meets Astrid Lingren's Pippi Longstocking. A slim and magical feat of meaningful storytelling genius.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. 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.

Booklist

Starred Review. 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 theater of a story he tells more gracefully than any he's told since Stardust...[a] lovely yarn

The Times (UK)

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

Reader Reviews

NutrButr

Thoughts
I had a family recommend this book to me saying that it was a good read. Neil Gaiman is an author I had heard of before as well, but didn't think much of him at the time. After finishing the book, I feel that the story was worth the read. At times it...   Read More

Amy

Easily drawn in
The book was interesting. I enjoyed the way memories come through as you read. It was like having a conversation as I read.

Diana C

Where's the rest of it?
I was so very excited to read this book, but when I went to pick up a copy at my local bookstore and saw the size of it (very slim and small) I was disappointed before I ever even opened the front cover. I don't know about you, but I like a large, ...   Read More

Dorothy L

Disappointing Read
I'll be brief. I did not like this book. Why? It seemed obscure just to be obscure. It just seemed like the classic conflict of good and evil with new symbols that didn't work. I could not get into it at all. The only thing I thought ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Five Things You Might Not Know About Neil Gaiman

  1. Sandman #1Before he began to write novels that would earn him public recognition, Gaiman wrote comic books and graphic novels. The Sandman graphic novels (1989-1996), initially published by D C Comics and later by Vertigo, were particularly popular with a total of 75 issues. The Sandman is about an all-powerful being called Dream, also named Morpheus. He is one of seven god-like siblings who have always existed, and who exert their influence on our world. The series follows Morpheus, who has been the prisoner of a group of wizards for 70 years. Once he escapes, he must find several powerful objects that will allow him to exact ...

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