The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman by Neil Gaiman
Click Here to Download the Book 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. 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 Right up front I should admit, I'd never heard of Neil Gaiman before I read an enthusiastic newspaper review about this book and decided to preorder it a few days ago. Last night, it was wirelessly delivered to my Kindle and this morning, I picked it up and started reading. Almost instantly, I was so absorbed and lost in the storytelling experience that I didn't do anything else until I finished it a few hours later. It's a short book; it's enchanting; it's very well written...definitely top-quality fantasy literature. I'm not a fan of fantasy literature, but this book swept me away into such a delightful and fascinating series of incredible adventures--or should I say misadventures--that I could not pull myself away. The author is correct to warn that this is not a fable for children...the reality is far too stark and dark, and there are definitely some adult themes. "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is a tale about a lonely bookish seven-year old whose life takes a terrifying turn into a dark and creepy reality. The child is never named, but in recent interviews, the author admits that this child is very much like he was at that age. The child lives in the lovely English countryside of Sussex--the same environment where the author grew up. And like Gaiman, the child is wise, responsible, and moral beyond his years. The parents are blithely confident that nothing bad could happen to their brilliant bookish son in such a bucolic setting. But of course, bad things can, and do happen, especially to the pure and innocent... The parents have no idea that the Hempstocks--an eleven-year-old girl, her mother, and grandmother--who live by a pond at the end of the lane, are really a group of immortals who play at being human. Our sevenyear-old child makes friends with the girl, Lettie Hempstock, and she introduces him to the pond, which is really an ocean. Eventually, our narrator and Lettie take a trip into a higher plain of reality that is entered somehow through the property owned by the Hempstocks, and so begins a series of remarkable misadventures with unforeseen consequences. This novel is a heroic tale about the age-old battle between childhood innocence and mythic forces. The book will charm you, fill you with awe, make you feel on edge, surprise you, and make you want to keep on reading no mater what important obligations you might have waiting for you to accomplish. Since finishing the book this afternoon, I was so curious about this fine writer that I started doing research into
his life, philosophy, and writing. It seems that in prepublication interviews, Gaiman says that he's prouder of this particular work than anything else he's ever written...and, as I learned today, this is an author who has had an insanely prolific career spanning blockbuster successes across a large number of different creative media. He says he's put an enormous amount of effort into writing and rewriting this book in order to get the tone, words, and dramatic focus just right. A number of critics have already said they consider this work to be as close to sterling literary fiction as Gaiman is ever likely to get. Indeed, I was very impressed. For me, this work is, without doubt, first-rate fantasy and escapist fiction...and very fine literature, as well. It delivers a highly imaginative, fabulous and fascinating fable that envelops, and attempts to explain, everything in the space-time continuum. Yes, it's that ambitious! It had me hooked from the first to the last page. Simply put: it is an incredible gem of a novel.
The book begins like this. A grown man tells you what he is wearing, and from this, you understand. This is the aftermath in the death of a loved one. Though he's expected back at his sister's house, he can't bear to go back, to field the questions and catch-up conversations he knows he will be holding with people he hasn't seen in years. Instead, he goes for a drive, past the childhood home that isn't there anymore, down a street that becomes a gravel path and ends at an antiquated farm. There, he gets out of the car. And begins to remember. As I read this, tears burned my eyes and threatened to go over. Once or twice, they probably did. If you have ever been a particular kind of child--a child who maybe didn't quite fit in, or quite meet her parents' expectations in one way or another, a child who preferred reading books to playing sports, or who had birthday parties other children didn't come to--well then, this book might make your heart hurt a little, too. So, the plot. When the nameless author is seven, a boarder comes to stay at his house, accidentally running over the boy’s beloved kitten. The next morning, the boarder’s body is discovered, dead, in the family car, in a farmer’s field, not far off down the lane. The boy is sent off to the farmhouse for a short time while the police investigate. As he waits, he meets the Hempstock women; Lettie, who has been eleven for a very long time, her mother and her grandmother. To his astonishment, they already know about the incident, who was involved, and why the boarder killed himself. Something from another, ancient world has accidentally awoken. The older women dispatch Lettie to repair the damage. When she brings along the boy, who sees something he shouldn’t, does something he shouldn’t, and unintentionally transports something from the pagan, pre-history world into the real world, off we go. This book is the best kind of magic, the kind you read and recognize as a fairy tale version of our own lives, and our own hard truths. And so, the monster in The Ocean at The End of the Lane is not evil in the way we have come to expect from horror movies; she is just trying to give people what they want. She puts money in a poor woman’s purse, which results in the woman’s husband suspecting her of prostitution. A father secretly desires the family babysitter, so the monster allows him to have her. A man is furious with his son, so angry he could kill him... But this was the most frightening truth; being all-grown-up doesn’t automatically make anyone responsible, mature, considerate, unselfish, kind or wise. Most grownups—and terrifyingly, this means most parents--are pretty much just older versions of whoever they were at seven. And if this doesn't scare you, nothing will. With grace and great force, the story circles back to where it started, to ask the biggest question of them all; what happens after death? Are our loved ones really gone, or watching us from somewhere? Do they still care about us? Will we ever see them again? I don't know how much of this haunting story stands in for a memoir of Neil Gaiman’s life, and how much is fiction. It certainly feels like truth disguised by beauty. Whatever the case, this achingly powerful little book, which begins with the familiar experiences of childhood and grieving, transforms them both into allegory, metaphor, fable and fairy tale--and then back again. I recommend this to everyone with all my heart, but it would be an especially good place to start for someone who has never read Neil Gaiman before.
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