The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

Publisher: William Morrow Books
Release date: June 18th 2013
Pages: 181
ISBN: 0062255657


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 Lettie - magical, comforting, wise beyond her years - promised to protect him, no matter what.

A grounbreaking 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.


When people ask me for book recommendations, my answer always falls on some form of "go for Neil Gaiman. You can never go wrong with a Gaiman book". Now, I will not say I have read everything of his - I most certainly have not. But ever since I read my first Gaiman book that I have known I could rely on his stories if I ever needed a friend.

This book only served to show me how right I am.

Though I have always loved Gaiman, I often feel like there is something, some tiny little thing, in his books that I cannot understand. Like that strange shaped object behind your closet that you can see, sometimes even scrape the surface of with your fingertips, but not grasp. It has never kept me from loving his books, but it has always been a nagging sound in the back of my head.

Ocean, however, I did understand. Cliché as it may sound, I did not feel like I read it. I feel like the child I was, the one I still am, and Gaiman himself were speaking it to me. More than once, I caught myself thinking "I remember what this was like", sometimes "and it did not change."

Author Patrick Rothfuss wrote in his review of Ocean, "Sitting down to write a review of this book, I don't quite know where to start." Well, I have begun mine, but upon starting it, I have realised there is nothing I could ever say about it. Nothing concrete. Nothing review worthy. Dissecting this book feels like blasphemy.

Yet, I can tell you that this book is coated with nostalgia, naivete, and that je ne sais quoi of magic so characteristic of any Gaiman book (though one could argue that quite a few of them have more than that of magic). I can tell you that it's a story about a man reflecting on a period of his childhood. I can tell you it's a story of growing up. I can tell you it's a story of books, of magic, of everything and nothing. I can tell you many things, but I could never tell you the quality or what this book really is. Only experiencing it can tell you.

You'll have to take hold of it, sit down, open it on page one and find the Ocean. And if you find yourself on the journey as well, don't be alarmed. I dare say we all did.

The book in a quote

"'Why do you think she's scared of anything? She's a grown-up, isn't she? Grown-ups and monsters aren't scared of things.'

'Oh monsters are scared,' said Lettie. 'That's why they're monsters. And as for grown-ups...' She stopped talking, rubber her freckled nose with a finger. Then, '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. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."