Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Some books hit you in the face, knocking you back with action or romance or drama. Other books sneak up on you. They build upon themselves, layer by layer, until they’ve wrapped themselves around you like a warm blanket. That’s how I felt reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This was my first Neil Gaiman, who I knew as A Personality, having read his quotes and watched his Masterclass, but not as a writer. This quiet, powerful novella more than lived up to the hype. 

The Basics: 

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy, fairy tale, coming-of-age, horror
Published: Harper-Collins, 2013

Spoiler-Free Summary: 

This tale opens with an unnamed man returning to the site of his childhood home. He is in town for his father’s funeral, and feels equally melancholic and nostalgic. He recalls the summer his family moved to Sussex:

He was 7 years old, and, initially, faced problems common for a boy moving to a new place. He missed his old friends. He did not like the country. His parents were often away at work. Their neighbors down the lane were kind, if a little eccentric and old-fashioned. These Hempstocks took the boy under their wing. 11-year-old Lettie led him on a tour of the woods surrounding their property, when they wandered into another dimension. Like a princess in a fairy tale told to avoid sewing needles lest she invoke a terrible needly curse, the boy ignored Lettie’s warnings and accidentally released something dark and sinister. 

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We experience a nightmarish 24 hours as the boy and the Hempstocks invoke old magics and ancient pacts to banish the wicked eldritch hitchhiker, and the yet-darker things which follow.

Why You Will Love This Book:

It is difficult to write adult fiction featuring child protagonists. They either sound too mature, or too juvenile. The Ocean… perfectly embodies the honest simplicity, inherent selfishness, and open acceptance of all things wonderful that is childhood. In its own words, this is a novel about things children know which adults forget, and that juxtaposition bleeds through every page. Gaiman’s prose is beautiful in its simplicity, lyrical, yet unassuming. The subject-matter is equally charming, gripping, and thought-provoking. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if a fairy tale dealt with Lovecraftian existential dread, wonder no more, just pick up this book. 

Where Can You Find More? 

I love pointing you guys to authors’ actual websites to read more about their work, so there’s that. Here’s another opinion on this novel.  

Happy reading, folks.

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