Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. ~ Opening of The Ocean at the End of the Lane


The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
William Morrow, 2013
Fantasy; 181 pgs

From the Publisher: 
Sussex, England. 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, 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. 
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what. 
A groundbreaking work from a master, 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. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

I love Neil Gaiman.  I do not know why I have not read all his books yet.  Every time I open one of his books, I am completely and utterly charmed and swept off my feet.  It was no different with The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Although framed by the story of a man returned home for a funeral, this is really the story of that man as a boy, his friendship with an extraordinary girl, and what happens to him and his family after the suicide of a tenant who had been staying at their home.  

I instantly bonded with the little boy in the story.  Is it any wonder given how much he loved to read and how often he lost himself in books?  He had no friends; in fact, no one showed up at his 7th birthday party, a fact that made my heart break for him. But after the body of the opal miner who had been residing with his family is found in the family's stolen car, our little narrator finds a friend in Lettie Hempstock, an 11 year old girl. There is something peculiar about her; although, there is no doubt she is a good person with the very best of intentions.  She, along with her mother and grandmother, introduce the boy to a world outside his own.  One in which you can pull a kitten from the ground like you would a carrot.  One filled with magic and mysteries and untold darkness.

It is Lettie who first explains that the pond at the back of her farmhouse is the ocean, one that has shrunk over time but is still the same one her family traveled across long ago.  Her grandmother was alive at the time the moon came into being.  The boy wonders at the truth of it all, but accepts it, especially after he experiences some of the magic and mystery himself.

Evil latches onto the boy during a visit with Lettie, as she sets out to collect and bind that which had brought bad luck to the people in area after the opal miner's suicide.  The horrors it brings are straight out of a young boy's nightmares.  The very fabric of his family is threatened.  Knowing the adults won't believe him, the boy turns to Lettie for help, trusting she will carry out her promise not to let any harm come to him.  

Neil Gaiman's writing is so vivid, and yet, given the age of the narrator at the time the events occurred, there is an innocence about it.  I fell in love with the Hempstock women, so strong and quick on their feet, mysteries unto themselves.  The reader never really learns who--or what--they are, but they make one feel safe.  They are the reason I didn't have nightmares of my own after finishing this book.

The narrator learns much during the course of the book, about himself and about the adults in his life.  He finds a courage he did not know he has, and he comes to realize that adults are really like children inside, scared and trying to do the best they can, not always knowing the answers.

I found myself crying near the end of the novel, and feeling a bit sad at the very end, and yet hopeful.  I love the way Gaiman brings his stories full circle in the end, while at the same time leaving room to wonder. 

Rating: * (Very Good +)

To learn more about Neil Gaiman and his books, please visit the author's website

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Ocean at the End of the Lane on the TLC Book Tours route!


Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. The publisher provided a copy of the book for review.



© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

28 comments:

  1. I went to an event for Mary Alice Monroe yesterday and she raved about the audio version of this book.

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    1. Kathy - I've heard the audio is very good too!

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  2. I know Neil Gaiman's books are a must-read after seeing so many rave reviews. I've yet to read this one but I know it's only a matter of time. Glad you enjoyed it, Wendy!

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    1. Melody - I've really enjoyed the books I have read by him. I think you would like it if you read it. :-)

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  3. I'm torn about this book. It sounds fantastic and I've heard some amazing reviews about this but I'm a little afraid that there might be too much tragedy. I'll read it one day but I may have to prep with some happy books first! Thanks for the review!

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    1. Katherine - It isn't a happy book, that's for sure. So yeah, finding the right time to read it would probably be a good idea.

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  4. This sounds great! I haven't read much by Neil Gaiman (only Neverwhere and Blueberry Girl). I really need to read more of his work.

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    1. A.M.B. - I haven't read either of those yet, but I want to. I am pretty sure I have a copy of Neverwhere. I enjoy his writing and think he's so imaginative. Good qualities for an author--necessary, really. :-)

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  5. I have this book but can you believe that I have not read it OR any of his other books? Unheard of, huh? I like what you said about being swept off your feet. I love to lose myself in a book. It hasn't happened since Night Film which was read some time ago.

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    1. Ti - You know it's a great book when the book can sweep you off your feet.

      This one is on the shorter side and a fairly quick read. I hope you like it when you get to it.

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  6. I haven't read any of his work. It sounds very good.

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    1. Mystica - I've enjoyed the books I have read by him. I keep meaning to read more. I say that about a lot of authors. :-)

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  7. This book sounds wonderful. It is on my "to read" list -- maybe I should push it to the top.

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    1. Irene - I hope you enjoy it when you read it!

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  8. I am excited to read this one myself after reading your thoughts. Can you believe that I have only read Coraline by this author? Aack! I need to change that soon. It sounds like I should start with this book!

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    1. Samantha - I haven't read Coraline yet, but I want to. I've heard it said this one is an adult version of Caroline. I'll be interested to find out if that's true.

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  9. I need to schedule time for this one, I sounds wonderful

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    1. Diane - I enjoyed it. I actually picked it up to read a couple months before my actual tour date because I couldn't wait to dive in. :-)

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  10. I so can't wait to get a copy of this book myself - I've been hearing such amazing things and I'm so excited to read it!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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    1. Heather - I hope you like it when you read it! It's worth it. :-)

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  11. I have only read Neil Gaiman once but I think this sounds quite good, will keep an eye out for it.

    Lainy http:://www.alwaysreading.net

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    1. Lainy - I hope you do get a chance to read it!

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  12. I loved this book. I've only read one other Gaiman book (Coraline), which I didn't enjoy. But I enjoyed the writing in that book and I'm hoping to read more of his works soon. Charming is just the right word for his books.

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    1. Athira - I am glad you liked this one too! It was so good! I haven't read Coraline yet, but I want to. What was it you didn't like about it?

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  13. The first chapter of this was included in the copy of Stardust that I recently read and reviewed.

    Thanks for a great review, its help me to make up my mind that yes I do want to read it. Something I wasn't sure of before.

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    1. Tracy - I hope you like it when you read it!

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  14. Still haven't read Gaiman :) but think I have this one on my shelves somewhere~ I'm missing out!

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    1. Stacy - I think he's a good story teller. I hope you like whatever you read by him when you read it.

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