The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
Pages: 178 Published: 2013
The book: The story’s narrator, a middle-aged man, returns to the area he grew up in to attend a family funeral. Having some time to kill, he goes in search of the house he grew up in, but it is long gone. He does, however, recognize a farmhouse where, when he was a lonely, bookish seven year old, he made friends with Lettie Hempstock, an unusual girl who claimed the pond in her backyard was an ocean. As the narrator sits by the pond, memories hidden away for decades come flooding back and a very strange story begins.
You might like it because: Gaiman’s prose is delightful. He tells a wonderful story of childhood that begins in the real world and spins beautifully and magically into fantasy.
What did other people say?
“Gaiman’s at his fantasy-master best here….What distinguishes the book, though, is its evocation of the powerlessness and wonder of childhood, a time when magic seems as likely as any other answer and good stories helps us through. – People
“A novel about the truths—some wonderful, some terrible—that children know and adults do not.” – Time Magazine
Awards & Recognition:
#1 New York Times Best Seller
How quickly will you get into the book? Gaiman creates an interesting and engaging character and situation from the very beginning, so I kept reading. Around page 15, a tragedy occurs, and by page 22, strange things are beginning to happen. After that I couldn’t put the book down.
You might not like it because: The story starts in the real world and slowly morphs into fantasy. Strange creatures inhabit human bodies and flesh-eating birds, from another world, break through the sky into this one. If fairy tales and surrealism don’t appeal to you, then give this book a miss.
What might you read next?
Read about another lane, also in the UK. Brick Lane, by Monica Ali, is the fictional story of a Bangladeshi immigrant woman in London.
Or try Lanark, by Scottish author Alisdair Gray, where reality again segues into fantasy and science fiction.
In an interview with Neil Gaiman included at the back of the book, the author mentions a short story that he read when he was a child, called “Pile of Trouble,” by Henry Kuttner. He explains it sparked an idea that “had been composting in my head since I was a small boy….” That idea eventually led to The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. Kuttner’s work is out of print now, but you can still find copies of Ahead of Time, which contains that short story, for sale online.