The Ocean at the End of the Lane online To download now please click the link below.
Overview 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 Lettieâ€”magical, comforting, wise beyond her yearsâ€”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.
Reviews Sitting down to write a review of this book, I don't quite know where to start.
I was going to quote a passage that I particularly loved. But no good can come of that. Once I opened that door, where would I stop quoting?
So let me say this. I genuinely loved this book. I look forward to reading it again. I will buy copies for my family as gifts. I will listen to the audio and lament my own lack of narrative skill. I will gush about it to strangers.
In short, it is a Neil Gaiman novel.
There is truth here, and beauty, and joy, and a sad, sweet melancholy that moves through my chest like distant thunder.
I realize that what I am writing here is not really a review in any conventional sense. It is a paen. A panegyric. It is the textual equivalent of a huge, happy, gormless grin.
And you know what? I'm fine with that. Let the professionals write their reviews. Let them get all jargony about it. Let them try to pin this book to the page, not realizing that a pinned butterfly holds no delight. A pinned butterfly is nothing like a butterfly at all.
I make no claims to impartiality in regard to Gaiman's work. Sandman changed how I thought about stories. Neverwhere was a talisman for me. Stardust is a golden bell hung in my heart. And American Gods taught me that there was a *name* for the sort of book I was struggling to write. It was a picaresque.
So if you're looking for impartiality, this is not the review for you. Look elsewhere.
Me? I will enjoy The Ocean at the End of the Lane without dissection. It made me happy. It made me feel less alone. It made me love Neil Gaiman a little more than I already did, and that's something I didn't think was possible.
Do I hope to someday write a book like this? No. I never could. He's done something odd and strange and lovely here. I couldn't hope to replicate it.
Instead, this is what I hope.
In the future, when Joss Whedon and I are best friends and hanging out together in my tree fort, I hope Neil Gaiman comes over too. Because then the three of us will all play Settlers of Catan together. And I will win, because I'm really great at Settlers of Catan. But I will also be very gracious about it, and apologize for putting the bandit on Gaiman's wheat twice in a row.
Then we will make smores, and I will toast a marshmallow with such deftness and perfection that they will be amazed and realize I am kinda cool. Then we will talk about Battlestar Galactica, and which Doctor is our favorite, and we will tell ghost stories late into the night.
God I'm tired. I should really go to sleep. I have no idea what I'm saying anymore.
I hope I don't regret this in the morning. While in his home town for a funeral, a middle aged man drives to the site of his parents' former home and visits visits the farm at the end of the road, where he remembers some curious events from when he was seven...
First off, I'll get the gripes out of the way. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is marketed as Gaiman's first adult novel since Anansi Boys. It feels a lot more like a young adult novel, more akin to the Graveyard Book or Coraline than American Gods. Secondly, it's only 175 pages long. In and of itself, that's fine, but with a whopping 25.99 price tag, it's kind of a gouge.
Gripes aside, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a pretty cool book. Gaiman does a masterful job at portraying the nameless lead character, a seven year old boy who befriends at odd eleven-year old girl named Lettie, who may or may not be as old as the universe, and her mother and grand mother. Maiden, mother, and crone remember the Old Country, which sank, or the really Old Country, which blew up.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, like a lot of Neil Gaimain work, deals with dreams, the effect of belief on reality, and forgotten things, like things that every kid knows and every adult has forgotten.
There's not a lot I can say without giving away the best bits. Gaiman has a way of making his young adult books way scarier than his adult ones and this one falls into that category. Urusula and the hunger birds were both pretty creepy, as was what happened with the boy's foot.
That's about all I can say. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a really quick read but full of interesting ideas and great moments. Four out of five. I may elevate it to a five on a reread.
This is my favorite of Neil Gaimanâ€™s books so farâ€”a haunting novel about sacrifice, boundaries, and things remembered. So many twisted and tattered new characters to get into our heads and under our skin. Once again, Neil does what he does so well: he takes us by the hand and introduces us to a dark, tangled corner of the universe full of things that make us shiver and hold our breath in the dark.
Authentic and compelling, thereâ€™s much beneath the surface of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Like a secret whispered in the shadows by a trusted friend, it gets inside of us, and it lingers. A hero doesn't always need a name. Or to be particularly heroic. Sometimes the most memorable heroes are the most unassuming. Yet the unnamed protagonist of The Ocean at the End of the Lane--a grown man reflecting back on his seven year old self--is not so much a hero as a mirror, and familiar as an old friend.
When a seven year old boy finds himself caught up in the aftermath of a houseguest's death, a doorway is opened to another world--a world of nightmares and fairytale monsters, of magical kittens and brave eleven-year old girls who are older and wiser than creation. And it's there his adventure starts and, just as abruptly, ends.
Sitting down to 'review' any product of Neil Gaiman's mind seems the ultimate act of narcissism. That a mind unburdened by the genius that has offered tales of a little boy named Nobody, or a hulking man as sad and invisible as a Shadow, or a little girl and the talking cat that stole her story, could offer any form of criticism seems absurd. Yet there's something offered in each of his novels that cries out to be retold, to be discussed, because, at his core, Gaiman is a true storyteller, and a folklorist, and the kind of stories he tells are the kind that have always lived in imaginations more than pages.
Gaiman writes fairytales. Not fairytales for grown-ups, really, but the kind of fairytales that have not forgotten where they were born, and came from, or that they belong in nightmares every bit as much as sweet dreams. Fairytales for people who like fairytales, and for people who like stories.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the most fairytalesque-fairytale of Gaiman's since, perhaps, Stardust, and it was over, like its narrator's boyhood, far too quickly. It comes as little surprise it began as a short story, as it reads, in the most delightful sense, as one just slightly overgrown. A fast, thrilling tale with adventure and excitement condensed into a substance all the sweeter for its brevity.
As fond and nostalgic a view on childhood as it is a melancholic meditation on growing up, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is whimsical and magical, and both everything I longed for and not enough from Gaiman. Simply put, I loved this story like I love Hogwarts or Narnia, or any of the hallowed locations of my fondest, warmest imaginations and dreams of homecoming and, just like departing those places, it hurts to leave behind. Sometimes in childhood doors are opened that should remain closed. Once opened, these doors provide passage into places perhaps we are not ready to go. And sometimes opening these doors awaken and allow entry to things that should have stayed where they were.
This door appears often in the writings of Neil Gaiman, the best storyteller we have today and the best writer we have to capture and convey the dis-ease of childhood, a time of joy and wonder but also fraught with fear and uncertainty. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Gaiman’s newest offering, and in its pages he returns us to the troubling world of childhood. Doors are opened here, and it is a difficult and costly process to set things right. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a book I had been looking forward to reading and which I am pleased to be the first to check out from my public library.
A conversation from The New Yorker between Art Spiegelman and Maurice Sendak provides the novel’s opening epigraph. Sendak tells Spiegelman, “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.”
It seems as though Gaiman can remember his own childhood just as vividly because, much like Sendak, Gaiman is able to mine these “terrible things” and bring to life the joys and terrors of childhood in the pages of his books. I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman for the past twenty years ever since one of my students lent
me his collection of early Sandman titles. I began buying them myself every month, eventually read American Gods and Gaiman’s other so-called “adult” fiction, and moved on to some of his shorter writings and his fiction for “younger” readers, Coraline and The Graveyard Book. Most recently, I enjoyed Gaiman’s audible download Halloween story, “Click-Clack the Rattlebag,” another story filled with creeping childhood dread.
The effect Gaiman's stories has on me is much like the effect of those unsettling stories that fascinated me in my own childhood, not only Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, but even more so the fairytales and folktales and legends from the mysterious green volumes of My Book House and those of the other multi-volume set that so influenced my childhood reading, Journeys through Bookland. Gaiman masterfully ties the elements of those older stories into his contemporary offerings, the night journey, the changeling, the things that are so very awful and terrible from what they appear, the dead man, the empty house, the creature in the darkness, the tunnel, and of course the door.
At the beginning of The Ocean at the End of the Lane , the middle-aged narrator has returned for a funeral to the countryside of his childhood. It is no doubt the funeral for a parent although we are never told, but this return to forgotten landscapes brings him further and further into his past as he drives down roads that turn to trails leading him deeper into memory. He realizes, “I had been driving toward a house that had not existed for decades,” a place we all visit at some point in our lives (a journey particularly appropriate after the death of a parent, if that is indeed what Gaiman has left unsaid at the beginning of the book). This house that is no more is the house where the narrator lived when he was five until he was twelve, those years so crucial in a person’s life, the years of childhood, when consciousness is awakened, until it is trapped and weighted down by a different sort of consciousness (maybe an un-consciousness), the concerns of adult life, what William Wordsworth calls the “World" that is "too much with us." Our middle-aged narrator finds himself burdened by these concerns in the present, failed relationships, work, sorrow, the departed.
Leaving the funeral, the narrator travels between the landscape he sees in the present and what he remembers from the past; the narrator’s childhood lane has become a black tarmac road, the countryside has given rise to subdivisions of “sprawling housing estates.” The impact of this return to the countryside of his childhood after long absence is not so very different from what Wordsworth
recounts in “Tintern Abbey”: "And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought, / With many recognitions dim and faint, / And somewhat of a sad perplexity, / The picture of the mind revives again.” The narrator keeps driving until the road in the present becomes the single-lane track of his childhood, and then becomes a dirt path choked with brambles and briar roses, stands of hazels and wild hedgerows, until he is back to the Hempstock farm, back to the ocean at the end of the lane where he meets again Old Mrs. Hempstock, and where he sits on a bench by the side of the duck pond there and remembers, and the pictures in his mind "revive again."
And what he remembers is the story of this finely written little book, a story starting with his ruined seven-year-old birthday party and the suicide of the lodger in his house that opens the door to things the child is unprepared for, causing him to leave behind the world of innocence and fall into something different and worse but essential, the world of experience.
The book can be read in one or two sittings. For fans of Gaiman there will be plenty of familiar territory here growing out of the world of fairy tales and myth and maybe even some Lovecraft. As that road narrows to a lane and then enters the brambles and briar roses, the reader can sense the realm of faerie not far off. There are cats and monsters and powerful beings and the moon and things that appear to be one thing but are something quite different. As the young Lettie Hempstock tells our narrator, “Nobody actually looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”
Opposite the title page in my book there is an “Also by Neil Gaiman” page listing Gaiman’s works (minus his comic books/graphic novels, which is too bad because they are some of his best works). The titles are divided into “For Adults” and “For All Ages”; I wonder on which side of that list this novel will be placed in the future. I have heard Gaiman himself call The Ocean at the End of the Lane a book for adults, and in the Trib this morning (in a list of the best 2013 summer reads, the novel is placed among the top two “favorites” for the summer) the writer echoes Gaiman's words, calling it his first "adult novel" since Anansi Boys.
I’m not so sure about this bifurcation in taxonomy of Gaiman's books, but I suppose editors and librarians need concrete labels to hang on books to know
where to shelve them. But as Maurice Sendak says in that same conversation with Speigelman, “Kid books…Grownup books…That’s just marketing. Books are books!”
Here’s what Lettie Hempstock tells our narrator: "I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” Our narrator sits by the side of the ocean at the end of the lane and wonders about this and thinks about adults: “I wondered if that was true: if they were all really children wrapped in adult bodies, like the children’s books hidden in the middle of dull, long adult books, the kind with no pictures or conversations.”
Part of the magic that Neil Gaiman practices in his novels is his ability to transform his adult readers back to the children wrapped up in those adult bodies. Despite what Gaiman and the writer in the Trib said this morning, I’d put The Ocean at the End of the Lane in that more inclusive “all-ages” list and say it's a must-read for just about anyone’s summer reading this summer.
Jun 19, 2013Kira rated it 5 of 5 stars Shelves: read_in_2013 "Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside, either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."
I found myself crying through the last pages of this novel, the tears blurring my vision, and part of me not wanting to read the final words and yet needing to. I lived inside this book as a child again, a thoughtless, "normal" child -- "...certain, rock-solid unshakably certain, that I was the most important thing in creation." I could taste and smell this book, and felt stings that drew blood.
I felt like there was something unarguably true about what happened there, to that young boy, an allegorical, poetical memoir of a real childhood. True, and yet, impossibly fantastical, like an exaggerated memory, the kind that is larger-thanlife and cobbled together from bits and pieces of unrelated events. The kind so thick with emotion and salty with old tears: the ocean of an childhood stuffed and crammed into the duck pond of a life.
The mother, maiden, crone: playing with existence and protecting one small, hapless child. Myth, memory, existence, sacrifice, trust, forgetting. Especially forgetting. I hope I never do.
"How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow." I had no idea what this book was about when I bought it. All I needed to know was Neil Gaiman wrote it. Bam, boom in the basket! And down the narrow, bumpy Lane we go….
Even if the cover, title and author were hidden from me though—I would still know it was a Gaiman tale. His worlds, words, and ways are unique and something some place special to visit and experience. Truth be told….*whispers* the cats and kittens always give him away. Haha... Every nook and cranny of every single page holds his voice and magic. Fairy circles, creams, custards, varmints, vultures and pure, pure, magic! Magic that will jab and jog your own childhood memories and fears. I devoured this book from opening quote to acknowledgements and I’ll do it again and again. So much to see, so much to hear, so much, so much underneath each line, word, and moment. The Ocean at The End of The Lane is a fairy tale, myth, tale of wonder teeming with all kinds of Neil Gaiman goodness.
Our story kicks off with a man looking back on his childhood. His 7 year old self guides us through this dark tale of memory, friendship, sacrifice, and so much more. A suicide sets of a chain of events that pits our young hero against a world of fears and monsters. There are monsters in the dark, in the shadows, out the corner of your eye, and then there are the ones that smile right at you.
“Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”
Ursula Monkton. Is that the perfect name for a villain or what? Ursula Monkton “was every monster, every witch, every nightmare made flesh”. Can our boy find the courage to stand up to his fears? Maybe with a little help and magic from the Hempstock ladies down the lane.
That’s it. I’m not saying anymore about the plot. *shakes head and zips lips* Haha….Sorry. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you anyway. This tale is one to savor and experience. Just know Gaiman can wrap the power of youth, loneliness, fear and magic together in one line and make me shiver like no one else by capturing the creepy essence of the ordinary.
”I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I found joy in the things that made me happy.”
Gaiman tends to linger with me. His words, lines, and emotions will hit me years later out of the blue almost like a deja vu or spell. I have no doubt The Ocean at The End of The Lane will echo in my heart, tap me on the shoulder, and make me shudder years down the road. This book already had me tunneling under the Rhododendron bushes looking for treasures, creatures, and a safe place to hide!
Hope you read, remember, and feel this adventure for yourself. I am, admittedly, a HUGE Neil Gaiman fan so it seems likely that I would love this book. And I do. But I think that my fangirl status doesn't overpower the fact that this is a wonderful story and well-told.
Having just finished reading this book - I want to share my initial impressions. They're not hugely literary or in-depth but these are what are my immediate thoughts are. :-)
With Gaiman, there is always an otherworldly aspect to his books and this one definitely includes it, but what I think I liked most was how eerie this one was. I was reading it in broad daylight and I still curled up into a little ball because I was uneasy and, to be honest, scared.
The description of the food was something that also stood out for me. Since I was on edge with the suspense, it seemed as though whenever the main character had a good meal, it was a sign of safety/sanctuary. The way the meals were described definitely made me hungry and crave those comfort foods! (Well maybe except for the spotted dick, but that's just an unfortunately named food.) :-)
This book could be appropriate for classroom reading if you took out some of the more adult passages. Since those passages are not essential to the storyline, I think it would be easy to do.
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