Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, Neil Gaiman, William Morrow, 2013, 178 pp

Of course I loved this book. I love anything Neil Gaiman writes. It is impossible for me to be objective about his books because of this unconditional love. I could have wished it was longer so I could have stayed in his world for more hours, but even the brevity of the story is probably perfect.

Told in first person by a man who has just attended a funeral for a family member, it is a tale of returning to childhood memories and making sense of an incident not clearly understood when it happened. All it takes is a sad event and a familiar location. Then the unraveling begins.

All children have gone through terrible and scary events without much help. Sometimes it doesn't seem wise or useful to talk about such things with the parental units. You just know they won't understand or have anything helpful to say.

Because kids have a strong sense of justice, there are times when we have to become our own superhero or superheroine and take matters into our own hands. There is danger, you are afraid, and you have to sneak around.

I loved the way the boy was generally unhappy, found it hard to make friends, and spent his best most wonderful times lost in books. He was open to magic and understood that adventures were often scary and also required him to be brave.

I loved the three female characters: grandmother, mother, and Lettie Hempstock. Lettie was eleven, the boy seven, and she became his protector. She was the bravest of all though she made some mistakes.

Any parent who has a child who doesn't fit in and who spends hours alone whether reading or wandering or playing video games, knows that child is troubled about something. It is good parenting to pay attention and keep watch over such a child. But it's also good to have faith in the young person's ability to find his or her way.

I went to see Neil Gaiman talk about his new book. Even though we all had tickets in advance, the line to get in circled a city block and ended curled into a parking lot. It was hot, late afternoon. Finally we were all seated in the venue and Neil came on stage. The level of excitement, cheering, screaming, and applause was like being at a rock concert. Fantastic!

A boy who had his troubles and got lost in books, grew up to be one of the most well-known and loved authors. He seems to handle his fame and fans with a level-headed grace. He has also found good friends and love and he is happy to work hard at what he loves to do.

In his stories and novels and comics, he comes across as having some secret knowledge which he is compelled to share by means of storytelling. In The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, he writes for adults who remember what it was to be a kid. I read the book in a few hours and I plan to read it again, probably several times, the way I used to read my favorite books as a child. Just because.

(The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is available in hardcover on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. I just picked this up from the library yesterday and can't wait to read it. I was a little bummed when I saw how skinny the book is. I'm sure the story packs enough of a wallop, though. I'm very glad to hear that you liked it.

  2. I was immediately SO bummed when I saw the skinniness of it. I walked into the Neil Gaiman event and got my copy and felt almost cheated. But I wasn't cheated at all. I think the length is perfect. And I predict you will like it.

  3. Great review, Judy.

  4. I was glad that I'd been forewarned of its shortness! It was everything I hoped for and more. Being a confirmed stalker of Neil and his wife, Amanda Palmer, I'd been anticipating this book longer than any of his others. It did no disappoint. Amanda wrote a blog about the book and its inspiration (a tough spot in their marriage) which I immediately had to go read when I finished the book... partly so I could stay in that story. I do not love everything he's written (keep trying to like Anansi Boys and failing), but this one is up there with American Gods as one of the best things ever.

    The blog, for those interested: http://amandapalmer.net/blog/20130618/

  5. Thanks Carmen! Bev, he told the story of how he started writing the book because of Amanda when I saw him. Thanks for the link. I will check it out. I haven't read Anansi Boys yet so I can only say I love everything I have read that he has written. He has a kid book coming out (any day, I think). Something about milk in the title. He read from that also at the author event. It was hilarious.

  6. Read this last week on vacation and had to keep forcing myself to put it down, because I could have read it straight through if I hadn't. Not that this is a bad thing in itself, but when you wake up, grab the book and start reading and realize that you will not get out of bed, your jammies and your bedroom if you don't make yourself put the book down, you have to take swift and decisive action. I loved this book. I finished reading it and was still concerned about Lettie being okay.

  7. I so understand. My husband, who also is a Gaiman fan, wanted the boy to marry Lettie. I found that so interesting coming from the male viewpoint. I think in the long run, which is the run those women are in, Lettie will be fine. But it's cool that Gaiman left you worried.

  8. I too have read this novel... I didn't like it. I had heard the hype surrounding this novel, so had huge expectations for this novel. I simply didn't like it.

    I have Gaiman's novel, Norse Mythology, and am hoping I enjoy it much more than The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

    Here's my review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman:

    1. Well, I like it when an author is either loved or strongly disliked by his readers. I went and read your review. I can see how you felt the way you did. There is much ambiguity in the novel. I haven't read Norse Mythology yet. I hope you find it more to your liking.

    2. I was really surprised that I didn't like this novel... Everyone seems to love it so much... And Neil Gaiman is so hugely popular among readers. But I haven't given up up on reading his novels and look forward to reading Norse Mythology.