Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I’ve never read anything by Neil Gaiman before, but I see his name and his books around everywhere and felt that I needed to see for myself why his books are so loved. In particular, The Ocean at the End of the Lane has been receiving such positive buzz that I finally got a copy from the library. However, once I held the book in my hands, I was hesitant to start reading. Scary stories can creep me out. I do most of my reading in the evenings, and I didn’t want to read something that would unsettle my sleep. So I saved it for the weekend.

The book is short and a very fast read, so I was able to finish it well before my bedtime. And in fact, it would have been all right either way. It wasn’t as creepy as I feared.

The narrator returns to the site of his boyhood home in order to attend a funeral. His home has long since been razed, but it isn’t his house that he has come to see. Leaving the other mourners to wait for him, he drives out an old country lane to a farmhouse that he hasn’t seen in many years, the home of a girl he knew when he was seven and she was eleven. The girl is Lettie Hempstead. She lived with her mother, Mrs. Hempstead, and grandmother, Old Mrs. Hempstead. Lettie is no longer at home, but one of the old women greets him. She sends him down to the old pond that Lettie used to call her ocean. He goes to sit awhile and think.

While he sits there, he recalls and narrates the strange and terrifying things that happened to him when he was seven. They are otherworldly and worldly and include all the things that would terrify a seven-year-old boy–things that are frightening to grown-ups as well. His world dissolved around him and the only thing left for him to trust was Lettie.

It’s a spellbinding story, full of interesting images and nasty creatures that aren’t evil, they just are what they are. It reminded me a tiny bit of some of the stories in Nikolai Gogol’s The Collected Stories. Things that scare us are timeless.


  1. I haven't really read any Gaiman either. I tried to read his Newbery Award winning book, The Graveyard Book--twice---but I couldn't get interested in it's rather creepy world either time. I'm just not sure Gaiman is for me---just like Stephen King isn't really my cup of tea.

  2. I have to give this book the highest praise. I just finished it, and I really considered calling in to work so I could read it again and be that child again. Regrettably, I had to make adult choices. At least I have my fairy tales.
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  3. You've perfectly described the book. It is spellbinding. I love Gaiman, but I always find it hard to recapture the essence of his books - the word fantasy doesn't suffice to explain the dreamy quality of this book, nor does scary bring to mind the otherworldly horrors of the story! I hope this made you read more of Neil Gaiman, because it's certainly worth it. :)